SAN FRANCISCO -- His fastball has been clocked at 100 miles per hour, his power curveball is devastating -- Baseball America tabbed it the finest in the country -- and that's why the Giants picked University of Washington right-hander Tim Lincecum as their first pick Tuesday in this year's First-Year Player Draft. And he was available, explained a pleasantly surprised Dick Tidrow, San Francisco's vice president of player personnel. "We were kind of shocked he was there -- he was suppposed to be in the top three," said Tidrow. "We like his arm, his stuff and his athleticism. He's got a power arm with good breaking stuff. He's a fast mover who can pitch in either a starting or relief role."
Tidrow explained Lincecum, who led the nation's collegiate pitchers with 199 strikeouts, will begin play at short-season Class A Salem-Keizer but should move quickly through the Minor League ranks. "This is a good thing for the Giants -- this guy's going to be a big-league pitcher for a long while," said Tidrow. "But we're going to be careful with him for a while." The relatively undersized Lincecum felt he might have been overlooked by some teams seeking a prototypical 6-foot-4, 6-foot-6 pitcher built for durability, but he said he's a "legit" 6-footer and wasn't disappointed to be chosen No. 10 by the Giants. "Being picked by the Giants really is a good thing for me," he said. "It's close to home, San Francisco is a good team, and it's a good place to pitch. It's kind of awkward because I didn't talk to the Giants, but I think everything will pan out. "If Huston Street can do it, I can do it," said Lincecum of the Oakland A's 6-foot reliever. As for eventually making it to the Major Leagues, the collegian said he's not sure of the timetable, but is confident it'll happen. "I don't doubt myself," said Lincecum, who has been compared by some observers to Scot Shields and Francisco Rodriguez. "It's dictated by how I do. I have confidence, but I'll take it step by step." Lincecum is known for a unique pitching style -- with a softer Luis Tiant twist -- but believes he's sound mechanically and has never had physical problems throwing deep into games. Hey, "throw more, not less" is his motto.Huskies coach Ken Knutson raves about the junior, who was 12-4 this season with a 1.94 ERA and 199 strikeouts, the latter figure tops in the nation. "He's phenomenal, with great timing and delivery and four quality pitches," said Knutson of Lincecum, the Pac-10's all-time leader with 491 strikeouts and the conference's Pitcher of the Year in 2006. Can you say a right-handed Billy Wagner? "It's very exciting for us and we're happy for Tim and the Giants," said Knutson. "His stuff is the best in college baseball, always in the upper 90s [in mph]. He uses the lower half of his body really well and is strong and athletic." Washington's career and single-season record-holder in whiffs and victories, Lincecum has been equated to Houston's Roy Oswalt for overall effectiveness. He is a first-team All-American and one of five finalists for the coveted Golden Spikes award. Lincecum has been described by scouts as mature and ready to pitch at a higher level -- like the Majors, right now. In addition to his break-the-sound-barrier fastball and "hammer" of a curve with its vicious downward arc, he also owns a good slider, which he can use as a first-pitch strike. Knutson says Lincecum, who turns 22 on June 15, also has the perfect mind-set for the mound. "He loves to pitch and is very competitive," said Knutson. "He wants to win and was an excellent teammate for three years. I can't find anything bad about him in his abilities as a pitcher." Lincecum is still growing. He weighed only 150 pounds after a solid campaign in the rugged Cape Cod League -- he had a loop-best 0.64 ERA -- but bulked up last fall. Manager Felipe Alou's eyes widened when asked about the new recruit. "He has a real live arm and he's an excitable guy -- he's a strikeout guy," said the skipper.
Rich Draper is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.