Lincecum's sore neck slow to improve

Right-hander to miss next start, but Bochy expects him back soon after

Lincecum's sore neck slow to improve

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Though Tim Lincecum's sore neck will force him to miss his scheduled start Monday against Cincinnati, Giants manager Bruce Bochy felt optimistic that the right-hander will be able to take his following turn, slated for Saturday against the Los Angeles Angels.

"We're pretty confident he'll make that start," Bochy said Sunday.

Bochy's upbeat attitude stemmed from Lincecum's latest round of treatment.

Bochy added one note of caution, observing that Lincecum's physical condition will be closely monitored until he throws his first pitch: "We'll see where he is on that day."

Earlier Sunday, Lincecum was uncertain when he'll pitch again, due to the ponderous pace of his recovery.

"I can't force the issue," he said, speaking to reporters before undergoing treatment. "I have to listen to my body. Right now it's telling me I can't go full bore on it."

Lincecum hasn't pitched since Wednesday, when his discomfort limited him to a one-inning appearance against Milwaukee. He played catch Sunday for the second time in three days but had to skip his between-starts bullpen session Saturday.

Each idle day robs Lincecum of a chance to build sufficient arm strength for him to take his expected place in the season-opening starting rotation. The two-time Cy Young Award winner and four-time All-Star has a 13.50 ERA in three Cactus League appearances, having yielded six earned runs in four innings. He also has struck out seven, hinting that he's on the brink of regaining his peak form.

But he needs to pitch. That won't happen until the pain subsides, since it prevents him from locking his vision upon home plate.

"It's a gradual process," Lincecum said of his recovery. "This thing has kind of put up a fight. It's getting better day by day. It just hasn't gone by leaps and bounds yet, like I was hoping for."

Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Haft-Baked Ideas, and follow him on Twitter at @sfgiantsbeat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.