On Thursday afternoon Brian Sabean came on KNBR’s afternoon radio show hosted by Tom Tolbert (Mr. T) and was asked a variety of questions about his team: the performances of Giants in Tuesday's All-Star game, the prospects of re-signing Melky Cabrera, Brian Wilson’s date at the ESPYs...
And, of course, the plan for Tim Lincecum in the second half of the season.
Asked point blank if the plan is to keep running Lincecum out every fifth day, Sabean disagreed with the assessment and intimated that Linceum's next start against Houston on Saturday is a big one.
“He knows what he needs to do, he’s definitely done it on the side. He was able to put together a great side piece before the Seattle start where he straightened things out.”
Sabean then elaborated on Lincecum’s issues: “The problem is when he gets into the pace of the game and the game’s moving fast when he’s in the stretch. He can’t throw the ball downhill and keep a down-angle plane, and everything from above the knees to below the armpits is getting hit.”
After continuing on about some of the concerns management has had with Lincecum's control and some of the progress Lincecum’s made, Sabean made it clear the Giants cannot continue to let him struggle on the mound every fifth day.
“Having said all that, if he were to go upside down, I think we’d have to seriously consider skipping a start to give more time on the side. But he does know what he needs to do, it’s just a matter of him doing it.“
Then the interview got really interesting. Tolbert responded to Sabean’s comments by asking him to clarify if skipping a start was a possibility but sending him down (to the minors) was not.
There was suddenly an awkward pause as if Tolbert had completely caught Sabean off guard before he could barely get out a “no” while laughing out loud.
Sabean continued, “Ah Tommy. Did you put him up to that Ray (Ray Ratto, CSNBayarea.com insider and KNBR contributor)? Geez Tommy!” Sabean’s reaction brought a considerable amount of sheepishness out of the host who was still unable to qualify his question.
Sabean followed with the reasoning why Lincecum won’t be sent down.
“When a major league pitcher goes down for a start just ask anyone who’s done it...it is a nightmare...these kids don’t care who you are and especially in the PCL, it would be a night mare. What you do in place of that…if he skipped a start you could simulate a game, have him throw against hitters that were on the bench…It would give him extended time on the side to straighten out mechanically what needs to be done.”
Sabean is likely at the end of his rope regarding Lincecum questions. The Giants General Manager has done numerous interviews in which he repeatedly gets the same questions about what’s wrong with his star pitcher and what will be done if he can’t return to form.
Lincecum has been one of the best pitchers in the game over the past five years, including two Cy Youngs, a four-time All-Star and a series of dominant performances during the 2010 postseason in which the Giants won the World Series.
But 2012 has been a much different story.
Lincecum is 3-10 with a 6.42 ERA as he has struggled with his velocity and command. Even worse, the Giants are 4-14 in games that he’s started.
While for much of the first half Sabean and Manager Bruce Bochy were adamant that they needed Timmy and were going to run him out there every fifth day, they seem to be changing their tune of late.
While there will be consequences if Lincecum doesn’t show improvement soon, it is clear by Sabean’s radio response today that the option of sending Lincecum down to the minors is not on the table.
Tolbert himself, joking around with co-host Ratto, said, “That’s it. I’m never asking that question again.”
Almost apologetically, Tolbert continued, “Sometimes you need to lean into one for the team...to jump on the grenade.”