ST. LOUIS -- Tim Lincecum's days as a reliever are over. Manager Bruce Bochy named the two-time Cy Young Award winner his starter for Game 4 of the National League Championship Series against the St. Louis Cardinals.
Bochy also announced that Barry Zito would start Game 5, sending Game 1 starter Madison Bumgarner to the bullpen after two rough postseason starts. Lincecum has yet to get a start this season but has been brilliant out of the bullpen, giving up just three hits and striking out nine in 8 1/3 relief innings.
"He's the guy we want out there," Bochy said.
That hasn't always been the case.
Lincecum had a 5.18 ERA in the regular season and was sent to the bullpen in the NLDS, even as his fellow starters struggled. Lincecum has made three relief appearances, finding his confidence and command and earning a shot at filling his old role.
"We have a good one going," Bochy said after a 3-1 loss on Wednesday. "It's great to have a guy like Timmy all set to go to start for us."
Bochy and his staff have been leaning in Lincecum's direction for several days but waited to see if the resilient right-hander would be needed out of the bullpen for Games 2 or 3. Lengthy outings by Ryan Vogelsong and Matt Cain kept Lincecum fresh, and Cain said he's eager to see what Lincecum can do in his return to the rotation.
"He's really been throwing the ball well out of the bullpen," Cain said. "Hopefully that carries
Lincecum's starting nod could have some carry-over effect for the rest of the lineup. Hector Sanchez has been Lincecum's primary catcher in recent months and Bochy indicated that he would make some lineup changes for Game 4 after the Giants left 11 runners on base in Game 3.
Asked if he expected to catch Lincecum on Thursday, Buster Posey nodded.
"That's what I expect," Posey said. "But I don't know if that's the case."
Sanchez also has been Zito's primary catcher. The left-hander earned the Game 5 start instead of Bumgarner, who has given up 10 earned runs in two postseason starts.
"We feel that it's time to give Madison a little break," Bochy said. "He's a young kid, 23. He has been pitching a lot of innings and we feel at this point that we're better off giving him a little break and going with (Zito), who has done a nice job for us."
Zito lasted just 2 2/3 innings in his lone start this postseason but pitched well in his one regular-season appearance at Busch Stadium, giving up two earned runs in 6 2/3 innings.
That quality start was a rarity for Zito, however; he has an 8.20 ERA in four career starts at the Cardinals' home yard.
Bumgarner said he understood the decision and embraced his new responsibility. He sat in the bullpen during Wednesday's game.
"It's obviously what's best for the team," Bumgarner said. "I'm not throwing the ball well at all."
Bumgarner threw a bullpen session during Tuesday's workout and said he found the necessary adjustment.
"I found the problem and now I've just got to form a habit," Bumgarner said.
At least for the rest of this series, that habit will have to be formed in the bullpen.