SAN FRANCISCO — Tim Lincecum walked silently through the bustling clubhouse before Saturday’s workout and stuck his left arm straight out as he passed Jean Machi’s locker, offering a friendly fist bump to the reliever.
No words necessary.
Lincecum, so far an unused reliever this postseason, is doing everything he can to stay involved in the San Francisco Giants’ latest World Series run after he was such an important part of the previous two.
Ask anybody, and it’s a little bit freaky not seeing The Freak on that familiar October stage. A two-time NL Cy Young Award winner relegated to the back of the bullpen.
Lincecum hasn’t pitched since Sept. 28, though he has thrown warmup tosses and kept his routine to ensure he’s ready for his next chance — and manager Bruce Bochy hinted he very much expects to use the right-hander against the Royals.
“I’m just trying to keep that flow in my emotional state, as well,” Lincecum said. “Just kind of stay positive and just take every day for what it is. Every day in the playoffs is pretty special.”
Even if he’s left watching and waiting for his turn.
Lincecum pitched the 2010 Game 5 World Series clincher at Texas. In 2012, he moved to the bullpen for the playoffs and emerged as a reliable reliever when San Francisco won another title.
After landing a $35 million, two-year deal last October, Lincecum tossed his second no-hitter in less than a year June 25 against San Diego. He went 12-9 with a 4.74 ERA in 26 starts, ending a run of three straight years with a losing record.
His teammates understand this can’t be easy for the guy once nicknamed “Franchise.”
“I do everything I can do to encourage him on a daily basis because at some point in time (his) number could be called and it’s going to be in a big spot. It’s the World Series now,” said Jake Peavy, the Game 2 World Series starter. “We believe in Timmy Lincecum. He’s done amazing things, he’s as big-time as anybody and has had tremendous playoff starts as a starter, tremendous playoff experience out of the bullpen.”
The Giants’ 10th overall draft pick in 2006 and was in the big leagues by the following May, Lincecum lost his rotation spot in late August and was replaced by Yusmeiro Petit. Lincecum won his last two outings pitching out of the bullpen, including his 100th career victory Sept. 25 against the Padres.
Even Bochy considers Lincecum, knowing how much he wants to contribute — and how much Bochy wants him to get that opportunity, when the moment is right.
In the NL Division Series and NLCS, Lincecum was the only player on the 25-man roster not used.
“He’s just an unbelievable teammate, he’s so selfless that it inspires each and every one of us,” right fielder Hunter Pence said. “He’s also a big-game pitcher. He has that flair for the spectacular. You’ve seen it with two no-hitters where he lifts us up through some of our tough times and you’ve seen it in the postseason. “
Lincecum didn’t even enter the 18-inning Game 2 division series win at Washington. Bochy said he would have used him but plans changed once the Giants took the lead.
“Timmy’s done a lot for us, I’ll start with that,” Bochy said.
“When you get in the postseason, there is probably going to be a guy, maybe two who doesn’t get a lot of work, but that doesn’t mean he might not play a key role.”
Bochy added: “I think about Timmy, trust me, the fact he hasn’t been in there because I haven’t forgotten what he’s done or what he could do for us. So far it’s worked out well. But still, I’d like to get him to be part of it.”
Lincecum is still among the fan favorites, and that was evident when a long line of people waiting to see him weaved around a corner and down the hallway for FanFest at AT&T Park last Feb. 1.
When the 2013 season ended, Linecum wasn’t sure he would even be back in orange and black. Instead of testing free agency, he stuck with the only team he has known and the comfort of remaining in a place he belongs and knows so well.
“I feel great,” Lincecum said. “It’s just about staying that way. ... I don’t think there’s any way to kind of lose it at this time of the year. Everybody’s kind of, whatever’s left in the tank you’re going to pour it on that field whenever you get a chance. I just try to be myself, keep a light mood. Along with that grind, we celebrate our small accomplishments.”