Word around spring camp at Scottsdale, Ariz., is that even now in his second year, potential superstar hurler Tim Lincecum is being handled gingerly, with manager Bruce Bochy forbidding him to throw extra batting practice or participate in other unnecessary activities that might put more strain than necessary on his smallish, 5-foot-11, 170-pound frame.
Lincecum's spring appearances have been held to 13 innings, less than half that of other starters. Bullpen coach Mark Gardner told MLB News Online that the team remains concerned about the violent motion with which Lincecum strikes out more than a batter per inning with 100-mph fastballs.
Yet even with Lincecum's spring ERA at greater than 6.00, staff and trainers have refused to tinker with his delivery, as Lincecum not only can throw the ball by hitters, but practically break their necks as they try to to slow down for his 80-mph curve.
The team has determined there is little choice but to "let Tim Lincecum be Tim Lincecum," confirmed Gardner, who pitched in the major leagues for 13 years.
By not using Lincecum any more than necessary, the team has adopted a strategy to build Lincecum's endurance slowly, as it is theorized that young pitchers who have been overworked early in their careers sometimes suffer avoidable injuries later. Lincecum was held to little more than 140 major league innings out of the No. 5 hole last year, though he likely will approach 200 innings out of the No. 3-hole this year.
Rockies reserve Ian Stewart, one of the most feared hitters in the minors, calls Lincecum "the toughest pitcher I ever faced." All the more remarkable when one sees him; Lincecum looks like he just stepped out of a high school gymnasium.
Says web critic Chad Bradford Wannabe: "I'm almost too giddy in praise of Tim Lincecum. The power he can generate out of a 5-foot 10, 155-pound body is just plain ridiculous. Of course, there's injury risk. He's young, he's aggressive, and his mechanics are uncommon...I can see why some may shy away from someone like this."