By Claire Reclosado-Baclay
When dealing with a superstar, it wouldn’t be that much of stretch to hear of objections when that star is told to take on a role that is different from the one he is accustomed to.
When San Francisco Giants starter Tim Lincecum was not named one of the postseason starting pitchers for the team, there were no complaints from the two-time Cy Young Award winner. All he would say is that he will do whatever he is asked to do to help the team win.
Game 3 is in the books with the Giants beating the Detroit Tigers 2-0 at Comerica Park. The team is now ahead 3-0—all of the 23 teams that have gone up 3-0 in the World Series have won the series, with 20 of those teams winning Game 4.
It’s no secret. A big reason San Francisco stands one game away from winning it all is due to their pitching.
Lincecum has been asked to enter the game in relief and he has not disappointed—even prompting some to wonder if the pitcher has found his new calling. Lincecum is not one of those with that thought.
“Right now the bullpen role is for the World Series and that’s my mindset,” said Lincecum following Game 3. “I think that’s everybody’s mindset. I’m just going to be out there as a safety net kind of thing and if I can pick up innings here and there in these games, that’s what I’m there to do. As I said, I’m just fortunate that I’ve been able to come out on the top side of these and fortunate to come out on the back side of wins.”
When it comes to his relief appearances, it is more skill than fortune. In his 13 innings of relief, he has allowed only one run on three hits and two walks. He has earned a 1-0 record with a 0.69 ERA and 17 strikeouts. In the history of the Postseason, there have been only 10 pitchers with a lower ERA than the 28-year-old.
“He has relished the role,” Giants manager Bruce Bochy said on Saturday night. “That’s the biggest part of it—he accepted it and really acted like he looked forward to helping the club in that role and that’s why I think he’s having success. He didn’t waver on going to the bullpen. He said, yeah, I’d love to go there and help this team move forward.”
During the regular season, his starts were sub-par and his frustration was apparent. In a sea of quirky bullpen pitchers, Lincecum has new life and seems to enjoy his time with the group. With a more relaxed demeanor, another side of The Freak has been exposed.
“It’s pretty fun,” he said when asked about how it is in the bullpen. “We’ve got a great group of guys on this team, so as focused as we are on the game, we still mess around down there. So that adds a little bit of entertainment. Outside of that you’re just sitting waiting for your name to get called, like I said before, and the second that happens, you’re just riding on straight adrenaline.”
Every time his name was called, he delivered. With each downed batter, his confidence became more obvious. That struggling pitcher of the regular season was gone and that cool, untouchable pitcher was back.
That transition from starter to reliever did not bruise his ego, rather being the team’s “secret weapon” brought back his superstar swagger.
“I think from the 2010 stint obviously I knew my role there and I was starting,” he said. “But the second we got that ring, it’s like that taste for that next ring is just sitting right in your mouth the whole time—that sounds terrible.”
Laughter filled the interview room as he said that, reflecting the lack of tension that surrounds the pitcher.
“Let me rephrase that. It just leaves you wanting it even more, and if that means being a good teammate or being in the bullpen, I really don’t care, I just want to win,” said Lincecum.
Claire Reclosado-Baclay is a freelance writer covering all things San Francisco Giants. Her work can be found on Examiner.com.