May 27, 2017 03:00 AM PST
SINCE 2007

Maturity now a part of Lincecum narrative

Gameplan
By NICHOLAS VON WETTBERG

Filipinos know all about San Francisco Giants pitcher Tim Lincecum, who is the most famous, and the most successful Pinoy to play major league baseball.



During his seven big-league seasons, in which he's started 220 games for the Giants, Lincecum has been a part of two World Series-winning teams (2010, 2012), bagged two Cy Young Awards (2008, 2009), and even pitched a no-hitter (2013).

That’s quite a list of achievements, especially for a pitcher that stands 5-feet-11 and weighs 175 pounds. Then again, proving people wrong has been a constant source of motivation for Tim, ever since he was an undersized (4-feet-11) high school freshman.

“I’ve always had something there to motivate me from the standpoint of being too small or them saying I couldn’t do it,” Lincecum said in a recent article for yahoo sports.

For some Filipino-Americans, however, the fact that the 29-year-old (he turns 30 in June) from the Seattle area has appeared reluctant in celebrating his cultural heritage is somewhat irksome.

Granted, there have been moments when he has acknowledged things like the greatness of Manny Pacquiao (2009) and the passing of his Filipino grandfather on his mother’s side (2007).

That point, as to how “Filipino” he is, remains subjective, and in the grand scale of him as a big league ballplayer -- and a Giants' all-time great -- is neither here nor there.

One thing that does matter to him now, unlike in the past, is putting in the necessary work to keep his stuff for the long-term and learn the art of pitching.

During the offseason, Lincecum rented out a warehouse in Kirkland, Washington so he could stay sharp by pitching off a mound. Sometimes it was solo, other times with friends performing the catching duties.

“I just tried to eliminate other factors,” Lincecum said, referring to overcoming the problems he's faced the past two seasons, due to a perceived lack of preparation (mentally and physically). “I wanted to escape.”

Amazingly so, it was the first time he had gone out of his way to do that consistently.

Could that be chalked up to hardheadedness, arrogance or plain laziness?

Probably a little of each, but mostly because of his gifts, the quick fix had come easily when his stuff hit a speed bump, meaning he had taken things for granted big-time.

“I used to always want the immediate result, the immediate get-back,” said Lincecum about flipping the proverbial switch. “And I’m like, ‘Oops. That didn’t work. [Expletive] that.’ Now, I’ve bought in. I take the good with the bad.”

Part of that resulted from last year’s struggles in the first half of the season, where control and command were seriously lacking. That had been the case since the latter part of 2012, when his stuff abandoned him.

Sometime around June of 2013, he began having a more professional discourse with fellow Giants pitcher Chad Gaudin, who emphasized the need for a more cerebral approach and to map out each at-bat with greater efficiency.

I’m sure the team’s brass and management were like, ‘it’s about time, and what took you so long, Tim?’

But the story has been told time and again about a flamethrower losing 5-10 miles per hour off his fastball and therefore cannot get hitters out via the strikeout. That split second makes all the difference in the world between a swing and a miss and a hit to one of the gaps or alleys. Batters have sat and waited on his off-speed stuff like the changeup and splitter.

No longer is Lincecum capable of putting on the uniform, cleats, hat, warm up for 20 minutes then expect to throw seven innings and 100 pitches. His “hero” days are gone and it finally seems like Tim has realized that fact. Thank goodness.

Now it’s all about putting up round numbers for six innings, trusting in the bullpen and earning the win, not getting guys out with strikeouts.