Here is a link to my Friday column about Yusmeiro Petit and Tim Lincecum. The full text runs below.
SAN FRANCISCO – The newspaper reporters and the radio and TV people were waiting at Yusmeiro Petit’s locker after the game, after the Giants beat the Rockies 4-1, after Petit set a major league record by retiring 46 straight hitters in one season — a major league freaking record — and after he pitched six dazzling innings giving up four hits, one run and striking out nine. All with only 81 pitches.
While everyone waited for Petit, the other guy walked by.
The other guy was Tim Lincecum whose start Petit took on Thursday. For good reason. The other guy walked out of the private, super-secret Giants’ eating room. He wore a University of Washington cap backward and he wore a backpack and, when he came past Petit’s vacant locker, all those media people didn’t give him a second look. Tim Lincecum who?
Media people are distinctly present tense. And right now — and into the future — Lincecum is most definitely past tense.
Thursday was the ascent of Petit and the descent of Lincecum. This is how far the two-time Cy Young Award winner has fallen. He is working on a two-year contract worth $35 million. That averages out to $17.5 million a season.
Petit’s salary, on the other hand, is much more petite. He earns $845,000, a goodly sum to you and me, but peanuts and popcorn to baseball players. The guy who doesn’t even earn a cool million just took over for Lincecum, as rich as a crown prince.
Not that manager Bruce Bochy anointed Petit after the game. Bochy sat on the stage in the interview room, his big face happy and sweaty and red. “Do we assume he (Petit) gets his next start?” I asked. “Or are you going to throw him back in the bullpen?”
To my surprise Bochy hesitated. “That’s a pretty good effort,” he finally said in the deep Bochy voice that sounds like beer barrels rumbling. “These are things we will talk about, but it’s hard to change that with the job he did today. We’ll talk about it internally. And, of course, Timmy, it does allow him to work on some things.”
I’d love to hide in the closet while the Giants’ brass talks “internally” whether to pitch Lincecum or Petit when that (their?) next start comes around.
Bochy: Yusmeiro did pretty good there and Timmy’s been scuffling a bit lately and had a minor hiccup. I say we go with Yusmeiro.
Pitching coach Dave Righetti: I can’t agree with you there, Boch. Timmy’s such a darned nice kid. Skipping his second start in a row might hurt his feelings and cause a deep psychic wound of major proportions.
Bochy: I see your point, Rags. We’re all about being good people — it’s really the relationships that count when it’s all said and done. Timmy gets the start. Yusmeiro goes back to the pen. I’m sure he’ll be OK with that.
The total discussion will consist of four words.
Bochy: Yusmeiro in. Timmy out.
This is no time to mess around with Lincecum, no time to be sentimental or even kind. That’s all over with. The Giants have 29 games left. A thimbleful.
After they beat the Rockies, the Giants put up the wild-card standings on the big board in center field. Catching the Dodgers and winning the National League West seems like a fantasy. The Giants are wild-card material. They are desperate to take their chances on the play-in game. One game. Live or die. It all will come down to that, if they are lucky.
They can’t afford a Lincecum start. They can’t allow him to go two or three innings and get his brains beaten out, and not find the plate, and slam his slider into the dirt, and bang up catchers. They can’t afford that painful struggle, Lincecum unable to find his release point from pitch to pitch. They can’t afford Lincecum losing games. Just losing.
On the other hand, the Giants have Petit, the exact opposite of Lincecum. He is calm — as opposed to Lincecum who always second-guesses himself. Heck, Lincecum third-guesses himself. On Thursday, Petit threw every pitch out of the stretch — he said he’s most comfortable doing that. His motion is precise, compact, no wasted effort. Lincecum’s motion is involved — in a bad way — and complicated. He looks like someone slinging a hand grenade instead of tossing a hardball. Petit is a finesse pitcher. Lincecum is a power pitcher who misplaced his power.
This is no time for Timmy. Amend that. This is no time for Timmy the starter, not if Petit continues to win. But it may be time for Timmy the reliever. He couldn’t be a closer. Nothing like that. But he could pitch middle relief. He did it in 2012 and he did it well.
He could come in and change the momentum of a game in September when things are serious and every inning, every pitch could determine the future. He is not an egomaniac who says, “Start me or drop dead.” He puts his ego aside for the team. That has been his history.
And there’s something else. If he’s a reliever, Bochy will say, “Timmy, you’re going in.” Fast. Just like that. Lincecum won’t have time for thinking, which gets him in trouble, or worrying, or planning. He won’t need instant psychotherapy. He’ll grab the damn ball and throw it, and he may throw it well. He could be best — at least for now — grabbing the ball and throwing. No cerebral cortex work. Central nervous system all the way.
Before the game, Bochy did not yet know how Petit would do. Asked who would get the next start if Petit were to pitch well, Bochy said, “It’s always the player’s performance that dictates what move you make.”
We’ll hold you to that, Bruce.
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