SAN FRANCISCO -- As Tim Lincecum was leaving AT&T Park on Sunday night, he popped into Bruce Bochy's office, waved his hand and told the manager, "I'm good for tomorrow."
How good might you be for every day, Timmy?
Perhaps even more so than he was against Cincinnati, Lincecum suddenly has become a huge X factor for starting and relieving in the National League Championship Series after he delivered two more scoreless innings out of the bullpen in the 6-4 Game 1 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals.
With Madison Bumgarner continuing to struggle in the postseason, Lincecum might become a candidate to start Game 5. He was already a candidate to start Game 4 for Barry Zito. Or he could be needed in Game 2 as the middle-inning bridge out of the bullpen, as he was the last time Ryan Vogelsong started.
For Lincecum's part, it doesn't matter. Just give him the ball.
"I really don't care," he said. "I just want to help the team win. I don't want to have a growing expectation of starting and then not start. I just want to do what they want me to do."
To be sure, the way the other starters are pitching, there are lots of holes in the dike for Lincecum to potentially plug right now. Bochy sounded like a man keeping all of his options open for arguably the hottest pitcher on his staff. With two more hitless innings Sunday, Lincecum has thrown 81/3 relief innings in the postseason, allowing just three hits, two walks and one earned run while striking out nine.
When asked about Lincecum starting Game 4, Bochy said it's a distinct possibility.
"He only threw two innings, and he was pretty efficient (24 pitches)," he said. "We still have our options there. He did a great job. We got within two, and he kept us there. He gave us a chance to come back. He's still available if we want in Game 4."
And Game 2?
"I doubt it," Bochy said. "He is available. I can't say I won't use him, because the game may dictate that. But if I had to use him, he is probably the most resilient arm we have on the club, as far as bouncing back."
Lincecum said he's ready for any assignment. He said he could have gone longer in Game 1, will have no problem going in Game 2 and will take the ball to start if necessary as well in Games 4 or 5. He just doesn't want to dictate the terms.
"I don't want to say I should be starting," he said. "I just want to go out there with the mentality of wherever they need me, I'm going to try to get my outs. That's good enough for me."
Lincecum said he feels better about himself on the mound now than he had at any point during the regular season. He can't explain why his bullpen role snapped him into shape.
"I just feel confident right now, definitely," he said. "I think you have to be at this point. You can't go out there with that doubt in your mind, because every pitch is that much more crucial."
As he did during his two relief stints in the Cincinnati series, Lincecum threw very few warm-up pitches before he entered the game in the top of the fifth. He opened the inning by walking Cardinals cleanup hitter Allen Craig but then struck out Yadier Molina and got David Freese to hit a double-play ball to second base.
He had a 1-2-3 inning in the sixth. St. Louis shortstop Pete Kozma hit a bullet to left, but Gregor Blanco had no trouble hauling it in for the second out.
"I left a couple changeups up, but with the exception of the line drive Kozma hit, I felt like there weren't too many great swings off me," Lincecum said.
Lincecum did concede that relief work has its advantages in terms of getting pumped up to pitch in the game.
"I think it's a little easier to get your adrenaline going out of the bullpen when you finally hear your name, because you've got to get going," he said. "I think that's what's allowed me to make that transition to the bullpen a little easier, too."
The Cardinals' Carlos Beltran, for one, was impressed that Lincecum is sacrificing himself to help the Giants where most needed.
"Tim is a team player," Beltran said. "He is doing what he is called to do. Bochy feels better to use him out of the bullpen, and he has done a real good job."
As Lincecum was departing the clubhouse, someone asked him if Sunday's two-inning stint represented what would have been his regular bullpen day were he still starting. He grinned.
"I don't even know when my regular bullpen day is anymore," he said.