SURPRISE, Ariz. -- When he got into the flow of camp last month, Tim Lincecum told reporters that he was looking for more "crappy contact" this season. The goal was to get easier outs, and so far Lincecum is hitting his mark.
Lincecum was again sharp on Friday, giving up just two hits in three scoreless innings against the Kansas City Royals. He didn't walk anybody or get a strikeout, relying on lazy fly balls and grounders to the left side while throwing just 35 pitches in three innings. In five innings this spring, Lincecum has given up three hits and walked just one. He hasn't given up a run yet.
"I just wanted to pound the zone a little bit more than I did (last time)," he said. "Last game I had a bad one where I threw four straight balls and I was trying really hard not to let that happen and attack the zone. Even if I was behind on a hitter, still come back and make good pitches. That's just where my mindset was at."
It's now 23 innings, one earned run for the starting staff. While you throw in the "this is spring" caveat, Lincecum made a point in February to set his bar high. He wanted a good spring ERA, a launching pad for a comeback season. You couldn't ask for much more from his first two outings.
Lincecum threw all four pitches for strikes against the Royals, mixing in three sliders. "They were all good ones," he said. "That felt good."
He talked about specifics after he walked off the mound, mentioning sequences to random Royals hitters and recounting the sliders he threw. This isn't the free-wheeling Lincecum, he's paying much more attention to everything that's happening around him. He's pleased with how that's all working out, too.
"Even some of the pitches they were hitting are where I want them to be," he said. "Those are the things I look for, not the hits but the placement of the pitches. Things are coming easier. I'm just commanding the zone a little better. Pitches are getting away from me here and there, but I'm fixing the problem."
Lincecum was again in the 89-91 range with his fastball and said he hopes the velocity ticks up as the spring goes on. But if it doesn't, that's fine too. He's aiming for that "crappy contact" and he doesn't need a 95 mph fastball to get it.
"It's all about placement," he said. "I know if I set my sights low (in the zone) I'm going to be better off than not. I'm not really worried about what (Hector) Sanchez is going to put down. I believe I can throw a strike with any pitch."