SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Announcing a move Sunday that had been anticipated for weeks, the Giants reassigned Tim Lincecum to Minor League camp, where he'll prepare to begin the season with Triple-A Fresno. The next step, of course, is waiting for Lincecum to return. "When I come up," he said, "that'll be my time."
Barring injuries to anyone in the starting rotation, that won't happen immediately. The Giants are extremely content with their front five of Barry Zito, Matt Cain, Matt Morris, Noah Lowry and Russ Ortiz. Lincecum has only eight games of regular-season professional experience since being selected in the first round of last June's First-Year Player Draft, so the Giants want the right-hander to gain savvy before summoning him to the Majors. "I think it's for the best," Lincecum said of his demotion. "They told me not to think about [ascending to the Majors] too much. I wasn't planning on it." But the Giants have big plans for Lincecum, particularly after they watched the 22-year-old display his impressive fastball-curveball combination. His side sessions early in camp became required viewing for club executives and any veteran who happened to have free time. The right-hander's 6.43 ERA in three Cactus League appearances belied the impression he made with his repertoire and poise. "He can be the next Matt Cain of this staff," shortstop Omar Vizquel said. "He seems to have great stuff. Obviously he has to learn a little more, but he has shown these guys he can do the job on a high level." "We're not changing anything with this kid," manager Bruce Bochy said. "He threw well this spring. He's just getting a little more seasoning." Lincecum took heart in his improved control. Fulfilling his intent to follow one of baseball's basics -- throwing strikes -- he issued one walk and struck out seven in seven innings. "That was always a problem in college, walking the frickin' world," said the University of Washington product. If the Giants' rotation struggles, the demand for Lincecum will rise among San Francisco fans. Such was the case in 2005, when the Giants let Cain steep in Fresno until late August. Lincecum has no idea whether he, too, will receive a late-season promotion. "I'd like to," he said. "But if I'm not, I'm not going to kick myself in the head." Lincecum's departure left 36 players in Major League camp, 11 above the Opening Day limit. Bochy said that the Giants will take this group to San Francisco for the slate of four consecutive Bay Area exhibitions beginning Thursday against Seattle at AT&T Park. Final roster cuts, Bochy added, will come next Sunday. Silver lining: The Giants absorbed their spring-high sixth consecutive defeat and 12th in their last 15 exhibitions, a 10-7 loss to the San Diego Padres in Peoria, Ariz.
Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.