HE ASSOCIATED PRESS
SAN FRANCISCO — Sporting short hair and black specs he doesn’t need but chooses to complete his new look, Tim Lincecum hardly resembled the hard-throwing San Francisco pitcher the Bay Area has come to know for his shaggy ‘do and strong arm.
— Kate Scott (@katetscott) February 8, 2013
Lincecum drew comparisons Friday ranging from Buddy Holly to Elvis Costello and even Greg Maddux. Silicon Valley smarty, to poet and professor.
"I wanted something different. Usually I’d take like six months between each haircut just because I was lazy," Lincecum said. "And now it’s kind of nice to have something to upkeep and take care of yourself."
A transformed Lincecum, indeed. One constant he is counting on: staying in the starting rotation for the reigning World Series champions in 2013.
"You know, when I first saw him, I didn’t recognize him to be honest with you," manager Bruce Bochy said Friday, a day before the team’s FanFest. "He looks good. I think it took a couple years off his age, too. He looks younger, a little more studious, too."
After a season of struggles and a career-high 15 losses, the two-time NL Cy Young Award winner embraced his role out of the bullpen during the playoffs but is ready for a comeback. He spent his winter in Seattle working out with a pair of trainers who pushed him to new physical limits after running his own routine during past offseasons.
Lincecum insists the work helped him gain back about 10 pounds of strength — putting him at about 170 — and regain his mechanics that were lost for much of his lost 2012 season.
He improved his diet and started eating more salads. He can’t even recall his last fix from In-N-Out burger.
Lincecum hopes this is an overall change — mind, body and attire.
"Very professorial," general manager Brian Sabean observed of the former ace. "Somebody said he looks like Buddy Holly. Somebody told me the glasses aren’t real. Nice prop. He reinvented his look."
Now, the Giants are hoping Lincecum can reinvent his game. Heading into the final season of a $40.5 million, two-year deal that pays him $22 million this year, Lincecum wants nothing more than to return to his dominant self in a contract year.
Lincecum went 10-15 with a 5.18 ERA in 33 starts and 186 innings last season, his sixth in the majors. Then, Bochy moved Lincecum to the bullpen for the post-season in a move that worked perfectly. Bochy made it clear when the season ended that Lincecum would have the chance to start again this year, though the manager does consider him a possible closer candidate down the road.
Lincecum, who pitched and won the Game 5 World Series clincher at Texas in 2010, allowed one earned run on three hits with 17 strikeouts in 13 innings for an 0.69 ERA as a reliever during last season’s championship run.
"I took it for what it was. It wasn’t a position that I was necessarily 100 per cent familiar with, but I just wanted to help the team," Lincecum said. "Right now, my perspective isn’t to be in the bullpen. My perspective is, I want to be a starter and I want to get back to that elite status that I was at."
He was embarrassed last season. His confidence took a hit. He tried every which way to fix things on the fly.
"It’s not just the jersey, but it’s the name on my back, which is reflective of my family and their work ethic," he said.
The Giants are eager to see how he bounces back at age 28 after the first prolonged funk of an impressive career.
"I certainly know he put the time in and he’s committed," Sabean said of Lincecum. "He ended his year on a high note."
Lincecum has long struggled through spring training with a relaxed mindset regarding results, knowing it was in no way indicative of how his season would go. That’s no longer how he looks at it.
"I feel like as athletes, people are judging you constantly. You’re judging yourself based on it," he said. "In the years past I kind of used spring as work, just to get my work in and if things go south, no big deal. But now it’s like I’ve got to prove myself. That game is just the same as it is when we’re playing during the season. Granted, it’s different players but it’s still the same kind of intensity. People are trying to make the team and I’ve got to approach it that way."
Lincecum got some laughs when it came to his look.
"I’ve got to get the bigger glasses to be Buddy Holly," he quipped.
Pitching coach Dave Righetti has formed his impression: "Greg Maddux."
Lincecum is just ready to get to work. Pitchers and catchers report Tuesday to spring training in Scottsdale, Ariz., with the first workout Wednesday at Scottsdale Stadium.
"I feel every year transitions into its own year. I’m taking every year differently and approaching this one with a fresh slate," he said. "As an introspective person, I kind of go on any river that will take me to an answer. Last year, I had a lot of questions. I was trying to change a lot things at once. Getting my mind back to a stable point where I know what I’m doing and I know why I’m doing it, I feel like my confidence is back."
Notes: Sabean said the team is in touch with Brian Wilson weekly during his recovery from Tommy John elbow surgery last April. Re-signing the 2010 majors saves leader is doubtful at this stage. "Their stance isn’t our stance and that’s been longstanding," Sabean said. "Their camp holds the hope he can get a contract with more guaranteed money. We see incentive-based."… RHP reliever Ramon Ramirez, a member of the 2010 title team who re-signed on a minor league deal this week, could be a late arrival to spring training because of visa issues in the Dominican Republic. … With LHP Barry Zito entering the final year of his $126 million, seven-year contract, Sabean isn’t ruling out keeping the 2002 AL Cy Young winner with an extension. Zito’s deal includes an $18 million club option for 2014.
"We’re open- minded with anybody who can help the organization," Sabean said.