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Notes: Lincecum has strong debut

Notes: Lincecum has strong debut

SAN FRANCISCO -- The Giants were packed up, the clubhouse emptied, disappointed AT&T Park attendees back at home after another loss, but Triple-A pitching prospect Tim Lincecum was just getting warmed up Saturday night.

Not that the Giants need another good pitcher, but it's nice to have one in the back pocket especially when it's a 6-footer with a 99 mph fastball. The Giants' No. 1 draft pick last year earned his first win in Fresno against the Portland Beavers on Saturday night. Lincecum pitched five innings, allowing two hits and three walks in a 6-0 win.

"We have a front-line prospect there and if he stays healthy, he'll have a good career," manager Bruce Bochy said.

But pitching is not what the Giants need most right now. San Francisco has struggled to find offense this season.

While Lincecum was pitching a shutout, his teammate, outfielder Nate Schierholtz, went 2-for-4 with a solo home run and a double. Schierholtz is now on a three-game home run streak and owns a .538 batting average. No one is coming up just yet, but with a 1-4 opening record at the big-league level, the Triple-A good news is welcome.

Credit due: The Giants are off to a slow season start, but Ray Durham's not. With all the grumblings of the Giants' sluggish start, the second baseman's efforts have gone somewhat unnoticed. Durham scored the only run for the Giants in Saturday's 4-1 loss to the Dodgers. Entering Sunday's game, Durham's .500 on-base percentage was the third highest in the league, and he is batting .385 in the Giants' first five games.

Durham is also contributing defensively with a 1.000 fielding percentage entering Sunday's game. In Friday's game against the Dodgers, Durham laid out to glove a Luis Gonzalez grounder and then beat the runner with a throw from his knees. Not bad for a 35-year-old.

"What a job he's done," Bochy said of Durham's defense. "He's always played a great second base, so I can't say that's a surprise to me."

Hockey players can hit: Sharks right wing Jonathan Cheechoo, the NHL's leading goal scorer last season, showed he knows how to hit off the ice as well as on when he took batting practice with the Giants before Sunday's game. Cheechoo, who said he's only played softball, not baseball, smashed several impressive-looking line drives into the green.

"It's faster than you'd think, especially when it's coming from a human arm," Cheechoo said of his first Major League batting practice. "I think the pitchers hit better than me."

Cheechoo's swing was not too shabby, and he even got a piece of a few curveballs. But don't expect to see any Giants down in San Jose taking slap shots any time soon.

"You just can't reciprocate this because you don't want your players on the ice," Bochy said.

Pitching coach and hockey fan Dave Righetti was responsible for Cheechoo's presence, along with San Jose teammates Patrick Rissmiller, Matt Carle, Scott Hannan, Mark Smith, Ryane Clowe, Mark Bell, Marc-Edouard Vlasic, Joe Thornton and Joe Pavelski. The players presented Righetti with his own Sharks jersey.

Minor tweaks: There were a few minor changes to the Giants' lineup in Sunday's afternoon game. Dave Roberts was given the day off and backup outfielder Todd Linden was given his second season start. In Saturday's game, Linden came up with two big catches, singled in the fifth and was the beneficiary of one of Derek Lowe's two walks in the game.

Bochy said the day off would give Roberts a chance to rest his knee, which has been bothering him. Omar Vizquel took over Roberts' spot as leadoff hitter and Rich Aurilia batted second. The Giants will most likely return to their Opening Day lineup Monday against the Padres.

This day in Giants history: In his first Major League at-bat, April 8, 1986, Will Clark homered off Nolan Ryan.

On deck: Right-hander Matt Cain (0-0, 4.50 ERA) will open the second Padres series in San Diego at 7:05 p.m. PT Monday, pitching opposite 6-foot-10 righty Chris Young (0-0, 4.76). Sound familiar? That's because it is. Cain and Young faced each other Wednesday in a 5-3 Padres' win at AT&T Park. Cain threw six innings against the Padres, striking out six and allowing five hits and three runs. Young yielded a solo home run to Barry Bonds and allowed six hits and three runs in 5 1/3 innings.

Becky Regan is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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