Lincecum better, hopes to face Rockies

Lincecum better, hopes to face Rox

SAN FRANCISCO -- An upbeat Tim Lincecum said Wednesday that his ailing back has steadily improved, leaving him confident that he'll be able to pitch soon.

Exactly how soon remains unclear.

Lincecum, who was scratched from his Tuesday night outing against San Diego with back spasms in his lower left side, said he felt "pretty confident" that he would make his next scheduled start Monday against the Colorado Rockies. He also refused to rule out pitching this weekend against the Los Angeles Dodgers.

But the right-hander emphasized that receiving clearance to rejoin the Giants starting rotation is not his decision. That call belongs to the Giants' medical staff and manager Bruce Bochy, who remained noncommittal.

"We'll wait until after tomorrow," Bochy said, referring to Thursday's scheduled off-day, "and see where we are with him. I don't want to put a target date on it."

Lincecum said that if his back continues to recover at the rate that it has since he began treatment Monday, "I don't see why I can't start in four days. But it's not up to me."

Since Lincecum typically does his between-starts throwing off a bullpen mound two days before he starts, common sense dictates that he'll probably miss the Dodgers series and is more likely to face Colorado.

Regardless of what unfolds, Lincecum is eager to return.

"I want to pitch right now," said the reigning National League Cy Young Award winner, who's 13-5 with a 2.34 ERA and a Major League-high 233 strikeouts.

Bochy ridiculed "conspiracy theories" fostered by fans and Internet sources suggesting that the Giants faked Lincecum's injury to engineer a way for him to face Los Angeles this weekend.

"Every game's important," Bochy said, conscious that the Giants trailed NL Wild Card leader Colorado by three games with 23 to play for each team entering Wednesday. "I wouldn't take away a possible start for him. It's crazy for me to skip him to bring up a kid [Madison Bumgarner] to pitch up here against a team [San Diego] that has been playing pretty well."

Lincecum, who recalled a brief encounter with back pain in high school, noticed trouble immediately after the Giants returned from Milwaukee on Sunday night.

"I must not have slept right or something," said Lincecum, 25. "It was a long flight. I don't know if that's the excuse, but I woke up and I just didn't feel right off the plane. My back started tightening up."

Lincecum said that the tightness worsened when he returned home.

"It was kind of like a shooting, sharp pain. It felt like my butt and lower back were cramping up."

Since Monday, Lincecum has undergone treatment virtually non-stop.

"They're going to keep treating it until I feel completely normal," he said. "It's better to err on the side of caution. ... It's one of those things that's going to feel better before it actually fully heals."

Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.