Veteran throws six effective innings in front of enthusiastic Bay Area fans
By Mark Chiarelli
OAKLAND -- Tim Lincecum didn't sleep well Friday night, waking up periodically as he anticipated what awaited him. He arrived at the Coliseum at 9:15 a.m and stewed, anxious to answer a question he's faced for almost a year: What's next?
What he learned was that "The Freak" may never come back. But Tim Lincecum certainly can.
Lincecum won his debut in Angels red Saturday afternoon, giving up one run on four hits in a 7-1 win -- his first Major League outing since last June. It wasn't a dominating performance, and it certainly wasn't the same Lincecum that dazzled San Francisco over a half-decade ago, but Lincecum reincarnated showed he can still pitch effectively after undergoing left hip surgery last September.
"I didn't necessarily see this game going as well as it did," Lincecum said. "But it panned out and it gave me a little more confidence knowing I can push through to the next game. I know it's kind of hard to accept for a pitcher who has been through a lot and done a lot, but like I said, I'm trying to move on and try to become a different player."
His arrival was a spectacle, bringing significant attention to an otherwise run-of-the-mill series and a hearty number of fans wearing Lincecum Giants gear to the Coliseum. The crowd of 25,078 hung on Lincecum's every move, stirring when he began his pregame routine and uniting for a long ovation as he took the mound in the first inning.
Lincecum said he battled anxiety throughout the morning.
"I sat around trying to get the nerves to dissipate. Obviously that didn't happen," he said.
But Lincecum equated his return to "riding a bike." He scattered two hits over his first two innings before running into trouble in the third, giving up a two-out RBI single to Danny Valencia. He hit Khris Davis in the elbow to load the bases before getting Jed Lowrie to roll over a changeup and ground out to end the inning.
"I felt like my mechanics were a little erratic," Lincecum said. "I got into some deep counts, but my defense made some plays when I needed them too."
He retired seven straight after Lowrie's groundout and nine of his last 10. He wasn't overpowering -- striking out two and walking two -- and relied mostly on a fastball/changeup combination while occasionally burying a curveball in the dirt. His fastball velocity sat between 88 and 90 mph throughout his start.
"I'm not pumping the cheese anymore like I used too," said Lincecum, who said he's still adjusting to his new pitching style. "I'm just inducing a lot more contact than I used to. Which is good and bad."
Manager Mike Scioscia said Lincecum was "what we expected," adding that if Lincecum was nervous, he hid it well.
"Tim just grinds out and competes and uses all his pitches," Scioscia said. "He has a real good feel out there for what he needs to do."
Lincecum, who still has friends on the Giants, recognized there was added emotion returning to the Bay Area, and even accidentally referred to the Angels as the Giants once in his postgame press conference. Scioscia said today was a "great tribute for a tremendous pitcher," and there were constant reminders of the career the righty has constructed, which includes two National League Cy Young Awards and three World Series championships.
He departed to an ovation after the sixth, yet another show of appreciation by a loyal following, but also a sign that there could be much to appreciate in the coming months, and even years.
"I tried to scratch what's been going on the last few years," Lincecum said. "I try not to dwell on the past. I've had some success in the last four years and a lot of not. I'm trying to let that go and move on to wherever I'm at right now."
Mark Chiarelli is a reporter for MLB.com based in Oakland. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.