Giants

Trainer meets with Lincecum after another start blows up

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Trainer meets with Lincecum after another start blows up

BOX SCORE

MIAMI Tim Lincecum had just finished answering questionsabout another atomic inning, another disappointing start and the Giants eighthloss in 10 times hes climbed the hill in 2012.

Thats when trainer Dave Groeschner quietly summoned him into thebatting cage for a meeting that lasted nearly 15 minutes. Manager Bruce Bochyand GM Brian Sabean disappeared during that time, too.

If this was a summit with their struggling ace, the Giantswerent divulging the particulars.

But Groeschner knew what assumptions could be made.

Hes healthy, Groeschner volunteered, as he brushed pastme in the clubhouse. And hes in good shape best in years.

Hes doing all his work between starts?

Watch him, Groeschner said.

Whether its mental, physical, emotional, spiritual ortranscendental, something remains very much out of alignment for Lincecum, theGiants erstwhile ace. Even on a night when he successfully tiptoed through early trouble, impressively hit 93.7 mph and led 3-1 entering the sixth inning, he could not pitch theGiants to one of those happy Lincecum days.

Three hits, a walk and a sacrifice fly tied the game. ThenLincecum took a lethal bite from a garter snake. He threw a flat, 0-1 curveballto Chris Coghlan, a .104 hitter who didnt have a home run to his name beforehis soul-crushing three-run shot sent Lincecum and the Giants to an eventual 7-6 loss at Marlins Park.

There was no terror or soul-searching in Lincecums eyes orvoice as he met with reporters. More of a calm defiance. A few R-rated words,too.

It has to do with being focused and locked in on everypitch, Lincecum said. Against hitters like that, anything can happen. Ivebeen known this year to let things snowball. I just left pitches up.

Did he lose focus in the sixth?

No, I was locked in from the first pitch to the lastpitch, he said. Its just not letting pitches get away from me, and lettinggo of the pitches that I (screwed) up on, not letting them sneak back into yourhead.

He spoke of focusing on the positives and letting go of thenegatives a postgame message that is becoming his script after every start.

I know, he said. I keep beating that (deleted) horse todeath. But its so true out here.

Lincecum insisted he didnt feel tired at any point duringthe game, even though he worked hard to escape a jam in the fifth inning andHanley Ramirez battled him for an eight-pitch strikeout in the sixth.

The data supports him. Lincecum's average four-seam fastball was 91.82 mph -- nearly two mph higher than his average in his first nine starts. He didn't throw one heater below 90 mph and he topped out at 93.7, according to PitchFX.

Lincecum said he simply paid for two curveballs that hedidnt execute: the pitch to Coghlan and another in the fourth that GiancarloStanton pinged off the splashy whatchamacallit in left-center field.

But his problems are not localized to two pitches plucked from each start. Not whenthe Giants are 2-8 in his outings. Not when he has a 6.41 ERA.

For a starter to lose eight of 10? Its not good, he said.I really havent put the team in position to win.

Even in one of his victories, Lincecum noted, he scrapedby the Mets. Hes thrown one quality start out of 10.

Hopefully we can turn this page and start over with these23 starts or whatever the hell its going to be, he said. Thats all I cando.

Bochy is still giving Lincecum the respect of an ace. He letthe right-hander try to work out of the situation in the sixth, even keepinghim in the game after John Bucks sacrifice fly tied it something Bochy almostcertainly wouldnt have done during Barry Zitos erratic periods over theyears.

The manager did not respond kindly to a question aboutleaving Lincecum in the game.

I dont know if hes losing concentration or if hes tryingtoo hard, but hes just having trouble, Bochy said. He got the ball up thatinning.

Maybe the turnaround starts with a summit. Or maybe it startswith calm defiance, and a few R-rated words.

I was really happy with how he competed, said catcherBuster Posey. I felt he was locked in as good as Ive seen him. Even theinning he struggled, you saw good body language the whole time.

Its true. For what its worth, Lincecums slender shouldersdid not sag this time. As Coghlan rounded the bases to start the fishies spinning on the fountainand give Miami a 6-3 lead, Lincecum had his eyes locked on the umpire. He helda pose with his glove raised, seeking another baseball.

Hell have to wait four more days to throw it.

What the Giants' 2018 Opening Day lineup could look like

What the Giants' 2018 Opening Day lineup could look like

SAN FRANCISCO — The excitement could be heard in Bruce Bochy’s voice as he spoke on a conference call Tuesday afternoon, which was understandable. Bochy used 136 different lineups last season, largely because the Giants never found permanent solutions in the outfield or at third base. 

Since the final game of a 98-loss season, the front office has handed Bochy an everyday third baseman in Evan Longoria, a star in right field in Andrew McCutchen, and a versatile outfield option in Austin Jackson. With every new addition, Bochy has tinkered with the lineup bouncing around his head. He isn’t ready to reveal anything publicly, but he said the new-look staff is already discussing lineup options. 

“It’s going to be probably toward the end of spring training until we have this lineup down,” Bochy said. “It’s a different lineup, as you know. I’ll see or we will see what makes the most sense.”

In McCutchen and Longoria, the Giants added two guys used to hitting right in the heart of the order. After the Longoria deal, Bochy did say he would like to hit Longoria in front of Buster Posey and Brandon Belt. Since then, McCutchen has given him another option, and a lot more could still change. 

Brian Sabean and Bobby Evans would like to add one more center fielder, and it’s possible that player can lead off. Steven Duggar could win the job in camp, and with his speed and strong eye at the plate, he would be an ideal leadoff option. That is, however, a lot of pressure for a rookie, and Bochy mentioned McCutchen and Jackson as options atop the lineup. Both hit there quite a bit earlier in their careers, but McCutchen hasn’t been a leadoff hitter since 2011 and Jackson has just 56 starts there the last three years. Joe Panik and Hunter Pence also have experience leading off for Bochy, and it’s possible the top of the lineup could change depending on the opposing pitcher.  

“I’ve always liked to have the versatility or flexibility to mix it a little bit,” Bochy said. “Maybe it’s a matchup thing or lefty-righty.”

It will be a lefty, Clayton Kershaw, staring in at the Giants on opening day. So for now, here’s a guess at the group Bochy will send out there at Dodger Stadium … 

1. Andrew McCutchen RF
2. Joe Panik 2B
3. Evan Longoria 3B
4. Buster Posey C
5. Brandon Belt 1B
6. Hunter Pence LF
7. Brandon Crawford SS
8. Austin Jackson CF
9. Madison Bumgarner LHP

Jackson not necessarily Giants' everyday center fielder

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USATSI

Jackson not necessarily Giants' everyday center fielder

SAN FRANCISCO — The Giants had a glaring hole in center field after the acquisition of Andrew McCutchen and his subsequent move to right field, so it stood out when a press release to announce the signing of Austin Jackson included the words “depth at all three outfield positions.”

A day later, team officials made it clear that Jackson is not necessarily the final piece of the puzzle, or even the solution in center field. After mentioning several times that it was a strategic signing, vice president of baseball operations Brian Sabean gave a blunt answer when asked about Jackson’s role. 

“Did we get him to be our everyday center fielder? Probably not,” Sabean said. “I don’t know that in his recent history he’s been able to go out there in that fashion.”

Jackson played just 54 games in 2016 and 85 last season for the Indians. The Giants see him as a complementary piece, someone who can handle plenty of time in center, spell McCutchen and Hunter Pence in the corners, and give them a dangerous bat against left-handed pitchers. 

It seemed that was a role that would mostly go to Austin Slater, but the Giants gave Jackson a two-year deal for $6 million, basically wiping out the rest of their room under the tax line. They will not be significantly involved in free agency from this point on, which leaves two options for one more outfield addition. 

Steven Duggar was mentioned over and over again on Tuesday’s conference call, and the Giants will give the prospect a chance to win a significant role this spring. It’s possible that Duggar and Jackson could form a platoon, but before committing to that, the front office will look to add a third offseason addition via trade. 

“There are still some fronts that we are pursuing with minimum-service type of players, which are low in salary,” Sabean said. “We’ll flush out other possibilities.”

Evans has spent months laying the groundwork for multiple deals, and the front office remains confident that one more outfielder can be added via trade. The player would have to be young and pre-arbitration to line up financially with the rest of the offseason work.

If that doesn’t end up happening, Bruce Bochy won’t be too upset. Bochy said he couldn’t be happier with the work Sabean and Evans have done to overhaul an outfield that was unfathomably bad on both sides of the ball last season. If Jackson is the final piece, Bochy is ready to make it work. 

“Right now, as we start the season, I think you’ll see Austin out in center field as much as anything,” he said. “We’ll see where we’re at when we break camp, but that’s a need for us out there in center. As we break camp, we’ll know where we’re at with other options, Gorkys (Hernandez) or Duggar. But center field is where (Jackson) will spend most of his time this spring.”