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Baseball notes: Giants’ Lincecum makes most of bullpen role

Banished to the bullpen, a two-time Cy Young Award winner has become baseball’s most distinguished middle reliever.

Tim Lincecum was the ace of the staff when the Giants won the World Series two years ago for the first time since 1954.

Following his surprising season-long slump, San Francisco dropped Lincecum from its World Series rotation. Given the chance to pitch in relief, he threw 2 1/3 hitless innings Saturday night in a 2-0 win over the Detroit Tigers that moved the Giants into a 3-0 lead.

Lincecum has pitched 4 2/3 innings of hitless ball against the Tigers, striking out eight. He’s faced 16 batters and just two have reached.

After winning the N.L. Cy Young Award in 2009 and ’10, he slumped to 13-14 in 2011 and 10-15 with a 5.18 ERA this year, the highest among qualifying N.L. starters.

He lost his only postseason start, in Game 4 of the N.L. championship series against St. Louis, but he’s allowed just one run and three hits in 13 innings of relief over five outings for a 0.69 ERA.

When he was relegated to the bullpen by manager Bruce Bochy, Lincecum said he didn’t take it as a demotion. He just looked at it as a different way to help the team.

“I think we’re all enjoying this right now,” Lincecum said moments after the final out Saturday. “We’re looking forward to (today).”

Scherzer, Cain on mound

Tigers right-hander Max Scherzer and San Francisco righty Matt Cain start for their respective teams today.

Scherzer, who was 16-7 in the regular season with 231 strikeouts that trailed only teammate Justin Verlander’s baseball-leading total, is 0-1 with a 0.82 ERA this postseason.

Cain, meanwhile, is 2-2 with a 3.52 ERA in the postseason after throwing a perfect game in June and going 16-5 with a 2.79 ERA for the season.

Protecting pitchers

Major League Baseball is looking at ways to protect pitchers from being injured by batted balls such as the one that struck Doug Fister in the head, and says hat liners are a possibility in the minors next year.

MLB medical director Dr. Gary Green has been talking to companies about protective headgear for pitchers, Halem said. A report is on the agenda at baseball’s winter meetings in December.

Slusser BBWAA head

Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle has become the first woman to head the Baseball Writers’ Association of America in the organization’s century-plus history.

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