March 4, 2010
PEORIA, Ariz. (AP) - Winning the NL Cy Young Award in back-to-back seasons can put a pitcher at an entirely new level in terms of recognition by the fans and respect from opponents.
San Francisco Giants right-hander Tim Lincecum experienced both after his spring debut against the Seattle Mariners on Wednesday.
Lincecum had a not-so-Cy outing, giving up three runs -- two earned -- on two hits while throwing 33 pitches in one inning.
But fans didn't care about the numbers. They just wanted to see him pitch and get an autograph from the 25-year-old who signed a two-year, $23 million contract just days before reporting to camp.
Lincecum obliged for dozens of fans on his way to the visitors' clubhouse at the Peoria Sports Complex, signing baseballs, shirts, pretty much whatever people stuck through the openings in a wrought-iron fence.
Later he sat on a stool in front of his corner dressing stall in the clubhouse, where he was surrounded by a large group of reporters. A member of the Mariners infiltrated the group, extended his arm and shook Lincecum's hand.
"What's up?" center fielder Ken Griffey Jr. said.
Now that's respect, having an opponent enter your domain to shake your hand.
Lincecum said he was caught off guard by the visit. He is a native of the Seattle area and grew up watching Griffey.
"It was the first time I had met him," Lincecum said.
His first meeting with Griffey on the field Wednesday came in the first inning, when Griffey hit a sacrifice fly with the bases loaded. When Griffey made contact it appeared that the ball might go over the fence.
"I think he got it just off the end of the bat," Lincecum said.
Lincecum had an even more adventurous meeting with new Mariners acquisition Eric Byrnes, who kept fouling the ball off, including a couple of deep shots down the left-field line. Finally, Lincecum struck Byrnes out on a change-up.
"I was eating at a restaurant the other night when I ran into him (Byrnes). We said, "We'll see you on the field. 'I didn't know it would be for that long," Lincecum said, laughing.
Lincecum struggled out of the windup during his bullpen sessions this spring, so he told Giants pitching coach Dave Righetti that he wanted to try working out of the stretch Wednesday, figuring he could throw more strikes that way.
Lincecum characterized his outing "as being a little off with my balancing point." He said his body opened up toward third base more than following through toward home plate. He said he went through a similar stretch last season.
Adjustments should come with more work in games and on the side.
As for all the attention he is getting, "I certainly didn't expect all you guys standing behind me (while he signed autographs)," Lincecum said. "I'll just have to take it as it comes."