After reaching a new low with a 10-15 finish last year, then receiving encouragement with his stellar relief performances in the postseason, Lincecum maintained an offseason conditioning program that he knew would help him coordinate the many moving parts in his delivery. Faith in his regimen boosted his confidence against the Dodgers.
"There wasn't that question mark of whether my body was going to feel good or if I'm going to be able to hold up today or if today's going to be a mechanical-issue kind of day," Lincecum said. "There was none of that. I was just thinking about my spot and what pitch the catcher throws down and hitting [the target]."
Giants manager Bruce Bochy concurred.
"I thought he had good rhythm," Bochy said. "Pitching out of the stretch, he looked comfortable. He had good stuff today."
Lincecum said that he used his entire assortment of deliveries while throwing 30 pitches, including 17 strikes.
"Mechanically, I felt really good," he said. "The timing of my arm was good. I missed a couple of pitches high, but it was kind of because I wanted to. There wasn't anything way too far off where I wanted to throw it."
That wasn't the case last season, when Lincecum averaged 4.4 walks per nine innings and posted a strikeout-to-walk ratio of 2.11, both career worsts.
"He occasionally got out of sync. He knows it," Bochy said. "He's worked hard on cleaning it up a little bit. That's what we liked today."
Lincecum even resumed inventing his own pitching vocabulary, as he did when he was blowing away the National League (he used to confess that he needed to "twerk" his delivery after a bad pitch or bad game). Said Lincecum, referring to the increased tempo of an exhibition contest over a workout, "Even with the 'pick-up-tiveness' of the game, I didn't feel like I was getting out of whack."
Though Lincecum didn't issue a walk, he ran up four 3-2 counts, two in each inning, to the eight Dodgers he faced. On two of those occasions, Lincecum was ahead on the count 0-2 or 1-2.
"I think the problem was not putting away a hitter when I needed to," he said.
Lincecum weathered second baseman Kensuke Tanaka's throwing error on leadoff batter Skip Schumaker's ground ball to pitch a scoreless first inning. But Lincecum encountered trouble in the second inning after Mark Ellis singled with one out. A.J. Ellis blooped a single to right field, sending Mark Ellis to third. Left fielder Jeremy Moore, a non-roster invitee, then crushed a 1-1 slider to left field for a double. That scored two runs and finished Lincecum, who said that the hanging slider Moore hit was one of the few pitches he threw with insufficient command.
"Last spring it was all about trying to make something out of nothing," Lincecum said. "I didn't have the strength or the mechanical will to throw pitches where I wanted to. Right now, the question isn't whether I'm going to throw strikes, it's where I'm going to throw strikes."