Lowell Cohn: Tim Lincecum’s baseball future a big question mark – Santa Rosa Press Democrat

The Angels released Tim Lincecum last weekend. Maybe you hadn’t heard. One online bunch, cbssports.com, shoved this headline onto their news story: The Angels Pull the plug on their failed Tim Lincecum experiment.

You get an image of Lincecum shooting down a bathtub drain.

The Angels needed a starting pitcher and signed Lincecum in May when no one else — including the Giants — seemed particularly interested. Baseball is a bottom-line business, a business without a heart. Lincecum made his Angels debut on June 18 at the Oakland Coliseum, gave up one run in six innings. The Angels won. And you thought, “Timmy always performs miracles and this is the latest.”

But that start wasn’t a miracle. It was an illusion. His record is 2-6, with a 9.16 earned run average, more like a stock price than an ERA. The Angels, going nowhere, couldn’t keep him around even for appearances. So they cut him loose.

He is coming off hip surgery and maybe he isn’t recovered. He’s only 32, young to be finished. But there’s the thought he is finished. He has a small body and he always gave everything. Depleted. Drained. On empty. Career over.

I wanted to know more about Lincecum — everyone around here wants to know about Lincecum — so I emailed my friend Jeff Fletcher, who covers the Angels for the Orange County Register. Fletcher is one of the premier baseball writers in America. His name may sound familiar to you. For years, he wrote baseball for The Press Democrat. We were lucky to have him.

I asked Jeff about Lincecum. Here’s what he wrote back:

“I assume he’s going to keep trying. I assume he will accept the Angels offer to pitch at Triple-A. And he could even be back in September if he shows some improvement. I don’t expect him to just retire. He could also try to come back as a reliever next year.

“He was actually really upbeat the whole time. After games, he would be disappointed and frustrated, but he always insisted that he knew it was still in there, he just had to find it.

“He is going to have to accept a minor-league deal next year. He probably could have been signed a lot earlier this year if he had done that, but he wanted a major-league deal and he wanted to start. He isn’t likely to get either of those next year if he tries again.”

Well, honestly, that news from Jeff Fletcher isn’t that bad — if you’re pulling for Lincecum. If you’re Lincecum. Angels manager Mike Scioscia said Lincecum has trouble finding his release point. May find it in the minors. Lincecum’s fastball consistently falls short of 90 mph. Maybe he can regain speed in Triple-A. Maybe not.

One line from Jeff Fletcher’s email sticks with me. Lincecum “knew it was still in there, he just had to find it.”

“It” being Lincecum’s ability, his demon, his Freakness. “It” being his identity as a starter and nothing else. In his comeback he was clear about that. He is a starter. Would accept nothing less.

There are two Timmys — forgive me for being personal here. One is getting his brains beat out in the American League. That’s the one we see. The other still is a great pitcher. He’s the one we don’t see. He is in hiding, waiting to come out. But he’s there.


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