Small wonder

Jeff Passan
Yahoo! Sports

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – At the 30-second mark of the video, it all starts to make sense.

Because when you watch Tim Lincecum in person, the first thought has nothing to do with his baseball acumen. It's just … well, let's put it this way: Lincecum admits that every year he asks his team for an extra inch to push him to 6-foot in the media guide – and that's after Lincecum has already gotten an inch, because in reality he's about 5-foot-10.

It seems impossible, then, that this wisp of a kid, who might weigh his listed 160 pounds were he carrying a five-pound brick in each hand, can throw a baseball 100 mph and snap off a right-handed curveball that breaks so many planes it might as well travel through time.

Until you see the video.

About 3,000 people have watched it as of Saturday, a pittance compared to the millions who still believe the clip of Daisuke Matsuzaka's slider is a gyroball. No, this video is real, even if it doesn't seem so.

It starts with Lincecum – the San Francisco Giants' pitching prospect who can't stop giving the club reasons to keep him in the big leagues to start the season – throwing some long toss, then a few pitches in his old University of Washington uniform. Standard scouting stuff until the camera angle moves to the third-base line.

What comes next is equal parts fascinating and painful, like the Shaun Livingston or Joe Theismann injuries, only without any injury at all. The side view captures Lincecum striding toward the plate with the longest, most improbable stride since Seabiscuit.

Bodies are not supposed to stretch like Lincecum's.

Men really are not supposed to stretch like Lincecum.

Then again, 5-foot-10 pitchers are not supposed to make the major leagues, and they're certainly not supposed to hit triple digits with their fastball.

"Maybe it's because I'm smaller that people see me weird," Lincecum said. "That's fine. I do what I do. And if people find my motion crazy or annoying, good."

Oh, it's all of the above. Crazy like Gnarls Barkley. Annoying to hitters. And very, very good.

Lincecum's motion results from years of tutoring from his father, Chris, who tried to build a delivery using the most deceiving elements from present-day major leaguers while emphasizing mechanics so Lincecum could avoid arm injuries.

At the beginning, Lincecum turns his back to the plate like Kevin Brown. As he rotates his hips, Lincecum said he "spikes" the ball, a la Arthur Rhodes, hiding it from hitters. And the final part, the stride, is like that of 6-foot right-hander Roy Oswalt, only longer and more powerful.

"Everyone has their own little thing," Giants ace Barry Zito said. "He just generates so much torque in his body. He's got a small frame, but he uses it to the max.

"It's all conditioned. We all do things in our delivery that if someone else tried he might get hurt. He's been doing it forever, and his body can take that."

Growth spurts in recent years were like potholes, throwing Lincecum's alignment out of whack for a day or two. Always, the mechanics would return, the motion would sync and, subsequently, the crowds would gather to marvel.

"I know they're standing there and watching," Lincecum said. "That was pretty cool. Barry Zito watching me."

Soon enough he'll get used to the idea of $126-million players taking an interest in him. The plan is for Lincecum to eventually join a rotation that already includes Zito, rising star Matt Cain, left-hander Noah Lowry and veteran Matt Morris or perhaps close should Jonathan Sanchez or Russ Ortiz prove an effective fifth starter.

After dropping to No. 10 in the draft last year because of concerns over his size and durability – biases die slow deaths – Lincecum signed late with the Giants for $2.1 million, then struck out 58 in 31 2/3 innings at Class A.

And all he's done this spring is turn a fast track into a superspeedway.

While the Giants are coddling Lincecum – club vice president Dick Tidrow ordered coaches not to tinker with his motion, no matter its unorthodoxy – they don't deny that he could be in a Giants uniform on opening day.

"We're going to stay open-minded," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. "We want to break with our best 25. And he's here in camp. We're not ruling anything out, even though he's only been here one year. We'll see where we're at when we get deeper into spring."

In his only appearance against live hitters here, Lincecum breezed through a scoreless inning in an intersquad game. He then amazed even more by declining to ice his arm after the outing, which is standard practice among major leaguers. Lincecum said he doesn't need it.

Slowly, they're learning: What they see definitely isn't what they get.

"People don't expect a person of my stature to throw the way I do," Lincecum said. "I just try to get as much out of my body as I can."

He seems to be getting that. And plenty more.