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“The Freak” in Relief

Posted By Greg Quintero On Oct 9 2012 @ 2:36 pm In San Francisco Giants | No Comments

In what may prove to be the final home game of the 2012 season at AT&T Park the San Francisco Giants took the field in their traditional home cream colored jerseys, a sharp contrast to two time Cy Young award winner Tim Lincecum. Lincecum stoically went through warm-ups and player introductions in his traditional hooded sweatshirt, and chewing tobacco tucked into his lower lip. Deeper than the contrasting wardrobe was the look Lincecum wore — that of a man who has one foot out the door in San Francisco. Hours before the critical second game of the NLDS against the Cincinnati Reds, Giants manager Bruce Bochy announced that Tim Lincecum would remain in the bullpen for at least the remainder of this series, citing his struggles in 2012.

Lincecum, obviously miffed yet diplomatic about the situation pitched two scoreless innings of relief in game two, departing with a fist pump following a strike out of Reds catcher Ryan Hanigan to end the seventh inning. “My reaction is I know what to prepare for now” remarked Lincecum after batting practice before game two,. Adding “So I’ll go with that mindset today and do whatever they want me to do. That’s really all I can do.” Not exactly a ringing endorsement of Bochys decision from the four time All-Star whom has become the odd man out of a four man playoff rotation due in large part to a dismal regular season.

Lincecum stumbled out of the gate this season, entering the All-Star break at 3-10 before finishing the year at 10-15 with an inflated era of 5.18. There has been much speculation around the Bay Area as to the root of Lincecum’s problems. Some feel a winter workout routine that saw the pitcher drop 30 pounds from an already rail thin frame has taken something off the pitchers repertoire. Others speculate the awkward mechanics of Lincecum’s delivery may not be sustainable on his small frame, and may have led to a condition known as “Dead Arm”, a repetitive motion condition that weakens the shoulder. There were even whispers during his early struggles that there may have been issues away from baseball hindering his performance. Whatever the reason, Lincecum’s performance has rapidly declined the last two season, perhaps leaving Bochy to feel he had no choice but to relegate him to the bullpen this series.

Two seasons ago Lincecum being anything but the staff ace would have been unthinkable. “The Freak” had won consecutive Cy Young awards in 2008 and 2009, and set the tone in the post season for the Giants 2010 run to the World Series title. Despite the struggles in 2012 his post season resume can’t be denied, and many view Lincecum as the Giants “wild card” against the Reds. The option of throwing him into a starting role this series is intriguing, the team is in an 0-2 series hole, including a brutal 9-0 loss Sunday and are desperate for a spark. Many are questioning why Bochy won’t send Lincecum to the hill, hoping he can regain his Cy Young magic long enough to extend the season.

The answer to this question is seemingly that with the chips on the line Bochy does not trust Lincecum. The Giants are being beaten by the Reds at their own game, pitching and small ball, but Bochy chooses to stick to his guns and not rest the fate of the season on the shoulders of his former ace. The reality is that the Reds are a legitimate World Series contender, while the Giants struggled to stay at .500 against winning teams this season. And the Giants will likely not win three consecutive games in Cincinnati no matter who toes the rubber, but why not make it interesting? Why not give Lincecum another chance at playoff magic, a chance to see if he is still “The Freak”?

To Lincecum’s credit he has attempted to keep the matter close to the vest. When speaking with media he answers questions with answers that don’t directly undermine the manager, yet the underlying disappointment is evident. He realizes that his role in the post season is to help the team wherever possible, but like any true competitor he wants the ball when the chips are on the line, and many Giants fans would agree he deserves it. The Giants will likely succumb to the Reds, and go quietly into the off season with this situation being a footnote to the lopsided series. However, the ground work appears laid for a more tense off season in which the star could be moved if the Giants find a buyer for the enormous final year of his contract. Lincecum has pitched himself into this situation, but he deserves a chance to redeem himself in the spotlight of the playoffs where he shines the brightest. Sadly, both sides seem to lack trust in the other, and it could spell an end to a most exciting era in Giants baseball history.

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