Tim Lincecum calls emotional return to Oracle Park 'spine-tingling'

Tim Lincecum calls emotional return to Oracle Park 'spine-tingling'

SAN FRANCISCO -- Tim Lincecum tried to recreate a defining image from his time with Buster Posey. Back at Oracle Park for the first time in four years, the former Giants ace attempted to sneak up on Posey and initiate a Buster Hug.

"I was trying to be poetic there," Lincecum said, smiling. 

But as Lincecum looked up at the crowd of nearly 100 current and former Giants, he lost Posey. Nobody lost Lincecum, though. On Bruce Bochy's final day, Giants fans finally got their chance to show their appreciation for the most popular player of the Bochy era. 

Lincecum is famously private, but he knew he wanted to be here for Bochy. He was the last player to walk through the center field gate and got the loudest ovation of the day before walking toward the plate with members of the 2014 championship team. An hour later, Lincecum stood near the mound where he had so many awe-inspiring moments and said the ovation was "spine-tingling" and "surreal."

"I wasn't prepared for that. It was really cool. It was like going back in time," he said. "It was very fun, it was really fun to see everybody. It was like going back in a time machine and you almost wish that you're out there playing again. It is what it is and time goes on, but it was really nice."

There were dozens of former players who showed up to honor Bochy, from longtime Giants like Ryan Vogelsong, Javier Lopez and Gregor Blanco, to guys like Marco Scutaro and Edgar Renteria, who were shining stars in championship runs. 

But No. 55 has always been different. As of Sunday morning, even some longtime Giants employees weren't sure if they would see Lincecum. But he watched the game from a suite and then surprised the fans and Bochy, who said seeing Lincecum put him over the edge emotionally. After the ceremony, the two spent a long time talking together on the field. 

Asked what he remembers most about Bochy, Lincecum smiled and immediately jumped into a long story. 

"I think it was in 2012, when I was struggling. It was in Miami and Sabes and him brought me in to check and see how I was doing," Lincecum said. "I think I gave up like five in the fourth inning and I was doing pretty well up to that point, but I was going through a really hard year that year. He just kind of lifted me up and got me to believe in myself again. You know how emotional I get -- I can get down on myself, and it turns into almost like a hurricane or wave that you can't get out of your own way of. 

"When I talked to him and Sabes, the belief that they had in me definitely pushed me to just want to be out there more. It wasn't about going out there every day and just like leaving it out on the field. They knew who I was and I was an emotional player and I was going to be that guy and they wanted me to continue being that guy."

Bochy always believed in Lincecum and that has stuck with the right-hander over the years. It's why he jumped back into the public eye Sunday, a backwards hat covering his blonde-tipped hair and a long-sleeved shirt tied around his waist. For a moment, it was like nothing had ever changed. 

Lincecum said he hopes to take part in something like this again. A few feet away, Larry Baer stood smiling. He reminded Lincecum that next year is the 10th anniversary of the first of three titles.

[RELATED: Read Bochy's entire farewell speech]

The Giants will be celebrating that one, too, and they would love for Lincecum to be here again. On Sunday, he looked like a man who was very happy to see so many old friends. 

"It's very emotional, man," he said. "I'm sad and happy. I'm really happy to see everybody but it's sad that that's it. I'd imagine people will find a way to get back together and make something like this happen again, but it's really hard to recreate what just happened."

Why Farhan Zaidi is shrugging off Giants', Gabe Kapler's early hiccups

Why Farhan Zaidi is shrugging off Giants', Gabe Kapler's early hiccups

The Giants have dropped five of their last six games after losing the series opener to the Los Angeles Dodgers on Friday night. They've committed several more errors than games played, and are the only team in the league without a quality start to this point.

Often times, it hasn't been pretty. Though San Francisco had been a pleasant surprise record-wise prior to the current road trip, the reality of the situation is that the Giants don't have a roster that you would confuse with the typical contender.

Gabe Kapler has had some slip-ups, but as president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi explained to 95.7 The Game's "Damon, Ratto and Kolsky" on Wednesday, he isn't concerned about his manager.

"He has a challenging job right now," Zaidi said, "because ... this is a lineup, a roster, a pitching staff that sort of needs to be managed pretty actively. We don't have five workhorses in the rotation who are going to throw seven innings where you just hand the ball to your setup man and your closer. He's obviously having to mix and match a lot on the pitching side, on the position player side we're trying to use the entire roster. We're platooning some, that means pinch-hitting some. 

"And when you're a manager and you have to make that many moves -- as many moves as our roster kind of behooves right now -- every time you make a move ... you're making a lot of 55/45, 60/40 bets that get scrutinized and if they don't work out, the onus kind of falls on you. ... But again, I look at some of our best wins this season and they've come from a lot of the decisions that he has made. So, we think this is the way to manage our roster that gives us the best chance to be competitive and win games, and I appreciate that he's willing to pull the trigger and be aggressive with a lot of these moves."

[BALK TALK: Listen to the latest episode]

Kapler's self-admitted most embarrassing mistake to date occurred in last week's extra-innings loss to the San Diego Padres in which he forgot about the new rule requiring pitchers to face a batter following a mound visit. He owned up to it immediately following the loss and shouldered the blame, which Zaidi found to be plenty satisfactory.

"What happened with going out to try to get Tyler Rogers in that extra-innings game last week," Zaidi continued, "I think he owned up to it, it was just a mental screw-up. He has been around the game a long time, had a long career and he just owned it. It was a tough inning, there was a lot of things going on. I'm sure there was a lot of stuff going on in the dugout. I just wrote that off as kind of a mental screw-up, which he owned up to and we turn the page."

[RELATED: Stat, odd moment show how poorly Samardzija has started]

Given the state of the Giants' roster and the general unprecedented gameplay in this shortened season, it's easy to see why Zaidi is willing to cut Kapler some slack and give him the benefit of the doubt. 

Kapler hasn't exactly been dealt a winning hand, and it would be a significant surprise if he turned it into one right away.

Jeff Samardzija's rough start to season displayed by stat, odd moment

Jeff Samardzija's rough start to season displayed by stat, odd moment

There's a stunning stat from Jeff Samardzija's first three starts that shows how much he's struggling right now, but perhaps in this case all you need is an exchange from the Giants' loss Friday night. 

When Samardzija grazed Dodgers utility man Kiké Hernandez to load the bases in the fifth inning, Hernandez insisted over and over again to the home plate umpire that he had not been hit by the pitch. It was a strange sight, and the Giants even challenged the call -- with no luck -- to try to send Hernandez back to the box, but it seems that it's not a good sign that he wanted to be there in the first place. 

The Dodgers were remarkably comfortable against Samardzija, who is coming off a solid year but has had a nightmare start to 2020. In a 7-2 win over the Giants, they were quiet the first time through the order, then busted out for three homers the second time through. 

Samardzija walked off the mound in the fifth with the bases loaded. For the third time in three starts, he was charged with five earned runs. 

"I think he had a little bit of a lack of fastball command," manager Gabe Kapler said. "This is a very difficult lineup to get through even if you're locating your pitches."

[BALK TALK: Listen to the latest episode]

The Dodgers proved that with the three homers, which brings us to the stunning stat. In three starts, totaling just 13 2/3 innings, Samardzija has allowed six homers but struck out just five batters. Right now, he doesn't have the stuff or command to put hitters away. 

"Too many times we're getting these 0-2, 1-2 counts and battling for too long," he said. "We need to make sure that when we're getting them in the hole, we're finishing them. You give these big league hitters too many opportunities, they're going to take advantage of it. We've got to get them up and set them down as fast as possible."

Samardzija actually looked marginally better in the first three innings, getting six pop-ups and shallow fly balls. But those turned to homers the second time through, dropping the Giants into too large a deficit. The loss was their fifth in six games and put them five games behind the Rockies and 4 1/2 behind the loaded Dodgers after a little over two weeks of action. 

It won't get any better without a sharp turn from the starting pitchers, and the Giants don't have an obvious solution right now if Samardzija keeps struggling. Drew Smyly will be reevaluated when the road trip ends next Wednesday. Swingman Tyler Anderson already is needed for Smyly's spot. 

[RELATED: Reyes Moronta joins alternate site]

The Giants will hope the stuff improves and the command returns for Samardzija, at least enough to make hitters look less comfortable than Hernandez did. 

"He didn't think it hit him," Samardzija said. "I told him it must have hit his jersey or something. They're all gamers over there, they all want to play. I respect those guys a lot. He's just being honest. It's a good quality."