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Lowell Cohn: Tim Lincecum less a gamble if he adjusts to new reality

  • In this May 24, 2013, file photo, San Francisco Giants' Tim Lincecum works against the Colorado Rockies in the first inning of a baseball game in San Francisco. (AP Photo/Ben Margot, File)

SAN FRANCISCO — It's Giants Media Day. You want to know about Tim Lincecum, re-signed for two years at $35 million, a big gamble. Or maybe not.

You don't go to Lincecum right away. You go to pitching coach Dave Righetti sitting alone at a table. You ask why Lincecum can be a contributor this year. Tim Lincecum hasn't exactly been Tim Lincecum the past two seasons. Righetti starts talking, a dramatic monologue straight from the heart.

“As you get older, you expand your mind,” Righetti says. “Tim was closed-minded. All he knew was getting people out and embarrassing people and being a star. Can't blame him. He was a very dominant pitcher. He should have won 20 more games probably. Easily. When tough times hit, people kept asking me, 'Where's the Timmy of old?' I said, 'That's dangerous. You don't do that. You can never get better if you're trying to be like you were back then. You've got to see where you are right now.'

“That's the only thing we're going to go by. He can do it. Lots of right-handers can't. Lefties can pull it off. They can (Frank) Tanana it — go from one style of pitching to the other. I don't know why. It's never been explained. Very tough for right-handers to change speeds, to go from being power pitchers. You can count them on one hand.

“But he's capable of doing it. He's that good an athlete. When it got away from him was when he couldn't control it (his pitches). We all saw it. It was right before everybody's eyes. He couldn't get the ball where he wanted. It's a lot easier for hitters to lay off everything. It's the classic pitching problem.

“He wanted to do something about it. He started studying. He always went over the hitters before the game, but nothing like this. He sat down and ingrained it in his head. It's not easy to do that in front of people watching you and asking, 'Why can't you be like '08?' You shouldn't have to live like that. But that's the cross you bear for being damn good at one point.

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