Tim Lincecum stayed under cover on the dugout steps and quickly assessed the heavy rain soaking the Giants’ spring training field.
Then he was off, headed to the weight room for a workout. Entering his third full major league season, the two-time reigning NL Cy Young Award winner knows he needs to take his routine up a notch in order to maintain his dominance on the mound.
This isn’t a revelation that came to him overnight, but rather over the recent months.
Lincecum experienced an offseason of highs and lows. There was his marijuana arrest back home in Washington state only a few weeks before he received his second Cy Young Award. There were awards dinners and court appearances.
“It was a pretty crazy offseason,” he said.
Lincecum believes he’s grown up through all of it.
The 25-year-old right-hander has a new perspective on baseball and his career, a maturity that largely came about following his legal trouble. Manager Bruce Bochy has noticed and so has the owner and Giants’ brass, which last month rewarded Lincecum with a $23 million, two-year contract.
“I think Timmy knows as good as he is, he’s got room for improvement,” Bochy said. “He’s been working on some things since he’s been here, and in a more serious manner. That is part of maturing as a player. I think he understands you never arrive as a player.”
Lincecum has apologized every which way for embarrassing himself and his franchise. He has committed to being a more responsible, better person going forward. Lincecum even trimmed several inches off his Northwest grunge-style hairdo this winter because it was getting a little unhealthy. His father, Chris, told him he’d look more professional and presentable going to a salary arbitration hearing that wound up never happening.
“I was awe-struck when I first got up here, just glad to be here, hopefully doing the work I needed to do, but really not knowing what it was going toward,” Lincecum said. “As opposed to now knowing what I need to do and what it takes.”
He sure is speaking like a veteran these days, going on five months after he was pulled over in Southwest Washington state.
So far, Lincecum is still trying to find his groove at spring training with an ERA of 9.82 after two subpar outings against the Mariners, the team he rooted for growing up in Seattle.
Yet that’s not of much concern around the club. Everybody knows Lincecum will be ready when it matters.
The guy called “Franchise” or “Freak” by his teammates has been baseball’s most dominant pitcher the past two seasons. He talks about finding his “beat” out there, starting from his feet and moving up to maintain a balance.
He’s got his share of quirks, from wearing a lucky pair of jeans for 10 straight days to pulling on a beanie hat in the middle of summer.
“Whether you’re Felix [Hernandez], whether you’re Pedro Martinez in his prime, everybody always feels they can do something better or refine some part of their game,” Lincecum said. “I’m trying to be as positive as possible and just keep in mind that this is spring training, it’s not the season. This is about getting ready for the season.”
Lincecum recorded an NL-best 261 strikeouts last year and tied for the league lead with four complete games and two shutouts. He went 15-7 with a 2.48 ERA in 32 starts and 225¹⁄³ innings.