WASHINGTON -- Tim Lincecum didn't utter a negative word when he was moved to the bullpen during the 2012 postseason, opting instead to turn into a relief star as the Giants streaked to a World Series title.
Two years later, the franchise once again has a decision to make with Lincecum's rotation spot, but there are many more layers to this one. Every rotation shortens for a postseason, but to pull a starter during the regular season -- especially one as decorated as Lincecum -- would be a much different kind of slap to the face.
Manager Bruce Bochy wasn't ready to make that move after Lincecum recorded just eight outs in a 6-2 loss to the Washington Nationals on Saturday. But he wasn't willing to commit to Lincecum making his next start, either.
"Right now, I prefer to talk to the player, the staff and everybody else," Bochy said. "I prefer, instead of going through the papers here, to go talk about it internally."
The discussion was often in the background in 2012 and 2013 as Lincecum struggled to find consistency with diminished stuff. But the Giants believed a correction was coming, so fervently that they gave Lincecum two years and $35 million to keep him off the market last October. It looked like a savvy decision in the first half. As much a rock star in San Francisco as ever, Lincecum threw a no-hitter and was so effective (9-5, 3.66 ERA) that no one blinked when Bochy bumped him up to the third spot in the rotation after the All-Star break.
In seven starts since, Lincecum is 1-4 with an 8.24 ERA. The Nationals had six hits in 13 at-bats against Lincecum, who is allowing opposing batters to hit .341 in the second half.
The 30-year-old bared his soul after the loss, saying his outing was, "Pretty horse (bleep). Yeah, it was just horse (bleep)."
Lincecum dropped his head when talking about a 2-0 lead he gave back in the first inning. The Giants got a two-run shot from Hunter Pence two batters into the game but trailed 6-2 when Lincecum walked off the mound shortly thereafter.
"I kind of screwed us over," he said. "I mean, I really screwed us over."
With his team fighting for playoff positioning on a nightly basis, Bochy knows he can't allow this to go on much longer. Lincecum senses that, too, and said he wouldn't fight a move to the bullpen or a skipped start or two.
"If that ends up happening, it does, and I'm just going to have to work with it. If it doesn't, I'm just going to get back on board and work twice as hard to get my stuff right," he said. "That's really all I can do right now. I'll just lean on whatever Boch says and whatever they're going to do with the move.
"I'll just be all ears and be on board for whatever it takes. I just want to win. Obviously I want to get myself out of this, but it's for the team."
Lincecum, the face of the franchise for so many years, wore a look of anguish as he recalled yet another disappointing night. He gave up two runs in the first and an inning later allowed three more -- two of which were unearned because of Pablo Sandoval's first error in 74 games. Asdrubal Cabrera added a solo homer in the third.
Bochy sees mechanical issues with Lincecum, an inability to get the ball where he wants and an inclination to fall off the mound toward his glove side. Lincecum said the woes go deeper. He is thinking too much on the mound.
"My head is getting in the way of me," he said.
That was clear as Lincecum walked four and threw two wild pitches. In 321/3 second-half innings, he has 18 walks. By comparison, long reliever and spot starter Yusmeiro Petit has retired 38 consecutive batters after throwing 41/3 perfect innings in relief of Lincecum. Petit is seven outs short of the MLB record, but he has his warts, as well, namely a 6.32 ERA in six starts this season.
"It's a small sample size," Bochy said. "We'll discuss all that, everything -- and we'll see what the best option is here."
Lincecum hopes to get another chance and believes he can dig out of this hole eventually. He has done it many times over the past three seasons.
"It sucks to have to keep going on this up-and-down roller coaster ride of outings, but it's something where I find confidence in knowing that I should be able to get out of this," he said. "I'm still tenacious and competitive enough to work through it and not let it get to me, or at least not get the best of me."
A look at Tim Lincecum's drop in production since the All-Star break in mid-July:
W L IP H ERA
Pre All-Star 9 5 113.0 97 3.66
Post All-Star 1 4 32.1 46 8.07
Giants (Ryan Vogelsong 7-9) at Washington (Stephen Strasburg 10-10), 10:35 a.m. CSNBA, TBS