Lincecum prepared on mound, and for future
Giants right-hander could become free agent after season
PHOENIX -- Tim Lincecum and the San Francisco Giants are approaching the crossroads. If his contractual situation remains the same, Lincecum will become a free agent after the World Series.
He is a 29-year old right-hander who has won two World Series titles, two National League Cy Young Awards and has thrown a no-hitter in his seven-year career -- all with the Giants. Despite his struggles the last two seasons, there are surely going to be lucrative offers.
During a lengthy interview with MLB.com this past Sunday at Chase Field, Lincecum said he's not sure whether he'll remain with the Giants.
"There's going to be a time when I'm going to have to weigh my options," Lincecum said. "I've had a great time here with the Giants. I respect the organization and stuff. With that we'll see if the relationship goes further or not. I can't say that exactly right now. I can't decide."
Lincecum has spent the past two seasons going through a transition from a hard-throwing pitcher who relied heavily on his fastball to one who has had to learn how to spot his various pitches because of a loss in velocity.
As free agency approaches, he seems to have found his equilibrium, taking a 3-2 record and 3.62 ERA over six August starts into what could be his final appearances for the Giants, including Wednesday's scheduled outing against the Padres in San Diego.
It will be his first start at Petco Park since throwing his no-hitter there against the Padres on July 13.
MLB.com: Have there been any contract talks between you and the Giants?
Lincecum: No. Not yet. Nothing. I'm just going to play it by ear right now. I haven't heard anything. We'll wait to cross that bridge when it comes time.
MLB.com: Some guys, when they get this close to free agency, want to try it and see what the process is like.
Lincecum: Yeah, I've got to weigh the options and I still have a lot of time to do that. You know, we'll see what happens when that happens.
MLB.com: You've had a great career by any stretch of the imagination.
Lincecum: Oh, things are going well. I want to see things get better and I want to get better myself. I'm just going to worry about me in the offseason and just go on to help out a team that needs it. Right now, I'm just trying to make my tools better.
MLB.com: What's the difference for you right now on the mound?
Lincecum: I think it's taking every start individually and at a larger level, not making any one game or any one month too big or overwhelming. It can be at times and I've gotten ahead of myself, worrying about the future, wondering whether the stuff I have on the mound I'm going to be able to carry forward with me. That kind of negative thinking just leads nowhere. You get negative feelings and negative results out of it. I've just tried to steer my mindset to a different kind of thinking by feeding off the positives, even if they're just little ones -- liking myself at the end of the day, giving myself the benefit of the doubt even if the day doesn't go great.
MLB.com: How have you been able to accomplish that?
Lincecum: I've had the pleasure of having Chad Gaudin on the team, who steered me in the right direction, as far as studying hitters and exploiting them the way I would like to, at least. I've never had anyone sit me down and do that, nor have I asked. To see the game from that perspective, that's the way I've gone about it for the last 12 starts or so. Things have gotten increasingly better for me. It has me going out there with a plan, knowing that execution is the key. When anything goes wrong outside of that, I can always go back to my plan.
MLB.com: So you're saying a lot of your problems the last two seasons have been mental?
Lincecum: Yeah, a lot of it is completely mental, just grasping the fact that I'm not going to throw 95-96 [mph] by guys anymore. I probably have to spot my fastball a lot more. That goes back to trusting it, trusting the stuff you have that day, regardless how fast it is and regardless of the fact that you're probably not going to throw that hard again. You just have to trust it and know that it's good stuff.
MLB.com: So why, at your age, the decrease in velocity of your fastball? Have you ever figured that out?
Lincecum: No, I think it goes back to getting into a good rhythm and timing with your body and having as many games when you have good results, but you might not be feeling at your best. That obviously goes back to being a good pitcher, but I've always fallen back on how I felt and what my rhythm was like on that day. Lately that velocity hasn't been there, so I've had another crutch to lean on and that has been my game plan and the execution of that.
MLB.com: So you can fall back on the plan.
Lincecum: It's just knowing that I can execute a pitch and it doesn't have to be nasty anymore. That alleviates any kind of stress on any given pitch. If I do my pre-game studying, I know that a guy is or isn't going to swing at a certain pitch or in a certain situation. It's not 100 percent accurate, but it gives you a gauge that you can trust.
MLB.com: So how long has this taken to evolve?
Lincecum: The mental side started last year and the preparation part of it started this year. As far as preparing is concerned, I just wanted to be on the same page with my catcher, going with what I wanted that day whether it means shaking to a fastball away when he calls a curveball down, or any sort of scenario like that. I'm going with what I know I want so when he finally puts a sign down, I know, click, I've got that one. There's not a whole lot of running over signs or confusion about, "What do you want to do here?" We already know what we want to do and we have an idea.
MLB.com: How much did being moved to the bullpen for the postseason last year play into all this?
Lincecum: That was a big perspective builder for me. It made me appreciate the game from another angle. Obviously, that opened my eyes to the possibility of what I can do later in my career. But it definitely motivated me not to be in that situation yet. I wanted to get back to being a starter and a good one.
MLB.com: I recall how ecstatic you were to contribute to the World Series victory in that role.
Lincecum: Definitely. Just to be a part of it. We've had individuals in here who have not been able to contribute when they wanted to. They had their retribution that next time and did a great job.
MLB.com: Barry Zito.
Lincecum: Exactly. It's nice to see guys get that comeback. I don't really care about the sacrifice I had to make, as long as it was for the betterment of the team.
MLB.com: So what was the no-hitter against the Padres like?
Lincecum: It was really special for me. I was part of one in college, but any personal complete-game no-hitters, I hadn't thrown one since high school and that was like seven innings. For me, it was great, obviously because of the rough year prior and not the sparking, stellar year I'm having this year. It gives me that insight to know that I can still dominate hitters at this level. It may be for only one game, but still one game is all that really matters when you take it one game at a time.
MLB.com: What was it like as the pitch count was increasing and you were going back to the dugout each inning? Did your manager, Bruce Bochy, say anything to you?
Lincecum: I remember in the seventh inning he asked me how I was doing. I told him that everything was fine and I just went from there. I didn't look back.
MLB.com: You never had any residual effect of throwing 148 pitches?
Lincecum: No. I didn't have a good start the next one after the All-Star break. But like I said, the biggest difference is bouncing back in between starts and not letting those negative starts amass one by one. You want to try and bounce back and get some positive feedback.
MLB.com: The point is, you're pretty durable.
Lincecum: Yeah, I've been pretty durable my whole life. I've never had any arm problems.
MLB.com: How do you sum up this part of your career with the Giants?
Lincecum: I'm happy because I'm healthy and that's the biggest thing anybody can say, as far as their career goes. Being able to last is the biggest thing and staying in the game is the hardest. I enjoy being able to work, come in and be part of a team like this. It's been fun. I've faltered the last few years here. I think I have a lot of good years in me, as long as I turn it around and start believing in myself again like I should. I'm not going to try throwing 96 anymore. I'm going to try and sit on the edges, not necessarily call myself a nit-picker, but exploit guy's weaknesses and have them swing at pitches that I want them to. I want to keep getting better.
Barry M. Bloom is national reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Boomskie on Baseball. Follow @boomskie on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.