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.