The San Francisco Giants gave Tim Lincecum as much time as they could to get himself right. But as of now, his time is up. Lincecum won't make his next start, at least, manager Bruce Bochy said Monday. For now, he's going to the bullpen. Yusmeiro Petit will start instead.
Over the past three seasons, Lincecum has shown only an occasional resemblance to the pitcher who won two National League Cy Young Awards, posting a 2.81 ERA and striking out 977 batters in 881 2/3 innings from 2008-2011. He tossed a no-hitter in 2013, and did it again this season — teasing everyone into thinking Lincecum was reverting to his younger self — but overall he has struggled to find the command necessary to compensate for diminished velocity. Lincecum just turned 30 years old, but he has compounded 1,557 innings on his 5-foot-11, 170 pound frame since his rookie season in 2007.
Bochy will not say how many starts Lincecum will miss, a decision that could hinge on Petit’s performance against the Rockies and how well Lincecum fares when he is summoned from the bullpen.
The irony is, Lincecum was rolling until he closed a 14-inning win at Philadelphia on July 22. His ERA in six starts since is 9.49.
Bochy and his staff have had some success getting pitchers on track by holding them back for one start, including once with Lincecum. Now, Bochy said, the pitcher needs to “clean up his delivery.”
“He’s been working hard,” Bochy said. “Sometimes you can tinker a little bit too much. You want to get him back to where he was six weeks ago. He was throwing as well as anybody.”
Over his past 92 appearances, Lincecum has a 4.73 ERA. His line-drive and home-run rates are up, and all of his stats are skewed by playing home games at AT&T Park, which is friendly to pitchers. He's actually performing worse than he is at first glance.
The Giants have moved Lincecum to the bullpen before, briefly, when he's fallen into a rut. And he pitched effectively against the Detroit Tigers during the 2012 World Series. So he has shown the ability to pitch in relief. And he might have to, full time, going forward. Considering that Lincecum is owed $18 million in the final season of his contract in 2015, the Giants might have to make him their closer just to get value out of the deal, lest Lincecum becomes another white elephant like Barry Zito.
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