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.
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 N.L. 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. 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 postseason 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 percent 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.
“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 his 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.”
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