First-round pick Lincecum makes impression on Cain
By Andrew Baggarly
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. - It wasn't Matt Cain's day to throw, but he walked out to the bullpen anyway. There was somebody he wanted to see.
"Pure fuel," a smiling Cain said after watching Tim Lincecum's first mound session of spring training Friday.
It's easy to think of Cain and Barry Zito as the present and future 1-2 punch in the Giants rotation. But it's probably wise to save a place near the top for Lincecum, the club's first-round draft pick last June.
If Lincecum dominates hitters during Cactus League play the way he has on every other level, the Giants will be tempted to stick him on the Opening-Day roster -- and manager Bruce Bochy didn't sound as though he would try hard to resist.
"Maybe a little bit, but you've got to be open-minded and know you've got a special talent with this kid," Bochy said. "It comes out of his hand awfully easy. He has a great presence."
The Giants plan to prepare Lincecum as a starter, but they could make an about-face if the closer situation remains in flux.
Zito's new mechanics might have startled Giants officials Thursday, but he's got nothing on Lincecum -- a 5-foot-10, 160-pounder who makes up for his lack of size by using an unorthodox, highly leveraged delivery. It's the creation of his father, Chris, a former semipro player who drew inspiration from studying film of Sandy Koufax and Bob Feller.
"It works well with my body, it's kept me from getting hurt and it helps me get as much as possible from my slender frame," Lincecum said. "(Coaches) always shied away from trying to help me because of how unorthodox it is or they say it is. They really haven't tried to change me at all, anywhere."
The Giants won't start. By decree of Giants vice president Dick Tidrow, coaches are forbidden from tinkering with Lincecum's mechanics.
Those mechanics allow Lincecum to generate power. His fastball hit 98 mph in a playoff start for Class A San Jose, and some scouts say he has the best curveball of any drafted player since Kerry Wood.
Other scouts say they believe he is an injury risk because of his size -- a view the Giants don't share.
Lincecum concedes he could be confused for the batboy. He looks barely old enough to attend junior prom, but he turned 22 in June and is 31/2 months older than Cain.
Apparently, this hasn't dawned on Cain, who snickered when he saw Lincecum airing it out while playing catch.
"I heard him say, 'He won't do that all spring,'" pitching coach Dave Righetti said with a laugh.