Cain reflects 10 years after Lincecum's debut

Cain reflects 10 years after Lincecum's debut

CINCINNATI -- Ten years after Tim Lincecum's Major League debut, Matt Cain still remembers the hype that the game generated. Cain and everybody else quickly learned that the hype was real.

Lincecum's frame was diminutive, but everything he did on a pitcher's mound was big. He won two National League Cy Young Awards, threw two no-hitters, led the league in strikeouts for three years in row, played for all three of the franchise's recent World Series winners and made four All-Star teams. More than anything else, he amazed and entertained legions of fans with his ability to summon searing fastballs and breathtaking offspeed deliveries from his slight, yet wiry build.

As the first pitch for the May 6, 2007, Sunday night contest against the Philadelphia Phillies approached, Cain, who was beginning his second full season with the Giants, recalled thinking, "This is going to be fun to watch."

It certainly was. Lincecum allowed five runs in 4 1/3 innings and yielded homers to Shane Victorino and Ryan Howard. But he also struck out five, displaying the talent that would distinguish him during most of his Giants tenure.

"He was maybe six feet tall and 170-something [pounds], throwing in the upper 90s with a nasty breaker. His stuff was legit," Cain said Saturday.

Lincecum, who couldn't be reached, is said to be living in his hometown of Seattle, gearing up for a comeback while adjusting to the hip surgery that limited him to 24 big league starts in 2015-16 with the Giants and Angels.

He remains a popular figure.

"He always has a place in all of our hearts, not just for the talent that he was but also the person he was," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said.

Cain, who teamed with Lincecum to lead the Giants' resurgence following four consecutive losing seasons (2005-08), recalled with reverence how his fellow right-hander motivated him through friendly competition.

"I was constantly trying to chase him. I knew I wasn't going to catch him with strikeouts and stuff like that," said Cain, the longest-tenured Giant. "If I can't catch you in strikeouts, I'm going to beat you in innings and ERA. It was tough to keep up with him. But it was fun."

Chris Haft has covered the Giants since 2005, and for since 2007. Follow him on Twitter at @sfgiantsbeat and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.