Tightness in back curtails Lincecum's return to action
By Barry M. Bloom
KANSAS CITY -- Tim Lincecum waited an entire postseason to make an appearance for the Giants, and when it finally happened, the outing lasted all of 23 pitches, as the right-hander was forced to leave Wednesday's Game 2 of the World Series after his back tightened.
Lincecum's final pitch, coming with two out in the eighth inning to Royals catcher Salvador Perez, bounced to the plate as Lincecum did a little flip on his follow-through. Trainers went to the mound, and he immediately left the game.
"It was just the pitch before the last one; I felt something tighten up in my back," Lincecum said after the Royals tied the best-of-seven Series at a game apiece with a 7-2 victory. "I just decided not to go any further."
Lincecum will undergo treatment when the team returns to San Francisco on Thursday for an off-day workout at AT&T Park. He would not speculate as to whether he will be ready for Game 3 on Friday night.
"It's all right right now," Lincecum said as he dressed in the clubhouse without the benefit of even an ice pack. "We're just going to treat it, see how it feels tomorrow, but right now it just feels pretty stiff. I think we're just going to play it by ear, take it day by day and see how it feels tomorrow."
Manager Bruce Bochy had been going round to round this postseason looking for an opportunity to use the one-time starter, who won 12 games this past season but hadn't made a relief appearance since Sept. 28, the final day of the regular season. The opportunity presented itself on Wednesday after the Royals scored five runs against five Giants pitchers in the sixth inning to shatter a 2-2 tie.
Lincecum came out of the 'pen to start the seventh inning and worked flawlessly into the eighth, retiring the first five batters he faced. The injury occurred on a 2-2 pitch to Perez, and when Lincecum left the mound, Santiago Casilla finished the at-bat, striking out Perez swinging on his only pitch.
Despite the injury, Lincecum is satisfied with the brief outing.
"I felt good," he said. "It was nice to get out there, obviously, and compete a little bit. You just get out there in the game-time atmosphere and you don't think about how long it's been. You just try to compete, and your body taps into what it's comfortable with. Outside of that, all I was thinking about was hurting myself."
Lincecum's postseason resume includes a 5-2 record and 2.40 ERA in 13 appearances -- six starts -- since the Giants began going to the playoffs in 2010, winning the World Series that year and again in '12. As a starter in 2010, Lincecum went 4-1, including two wins during his club's five-game World Series victory over Texas. Two years ago, when the Giants swept the Tigers, Lincecum was relegated to the bullpen; he made six postseason appearances, two of them scoreless and hitless in a span of 4 2/3 innings during the World Series.
This postseason, Bochy has been reluctant to use him, even in relief. Despite pitching one of his two career no-hitters earlier in the season, Lincecum hasn't made a start since Aug. 23. But he doesn't think the long layoff had anything to do with the sudden injury.
"I don't think so, just because I've been on the mound a few times in bullpen sessions," said Lincecum, who made his last one during a workout here on Sunday. "I've been trying to go full bore in those, so I don't think it's an injury that has anything to do with that. I've had this at times, but I don't think it's linked to any direct thing."
Considering the fact that rookie right-hander Hunter Strickland gave up his fifth homer of the postseason in the sixth -- a two-run shot by Omar Infante -- Bochy might be more inclined now to use Lincecum in stress situations. That is, if he's healthy.
"Oh yeah, he threw the ball well, he did," Bochy said. "I mean, we're going to need help in the sixth and seventh innings. I like the way he threw the ball today. It's been a while since he pitched. But I thought overall he looked good [considering] the long layoff. So he can be in the mix. Now I'll have to see how he's doing tomorrow and where we're at, but I was happy for him. He should feel good about how he threw the ball. He's going to be a guy, that if he's healthy, we'll probably use in that area."