SURPRISE, Ariz. It was Tim Lincecum, ladies and gentlemen.
The hair. The swagger. The familiar pitching line: no earned runs surrendered, four strikeouts, a meager infield hit allowed in four innings to the Kansas City Royals.
Giants win 2-1. Normalcy established for the coming season ahead.
If there is one personality on a team of Giants personalities whose individual success is the foundation of his team's success, it's the man called "Timmy."
When Lincecum pitches impressively, as he did here Monday in the farthest outpost of the Cactus League, the Giants seem all the more viable.
Spring 2012 is largely about determining if the Giants can add muscle to an anemic lineup, if they can catch the ball better than last season's below-par effort, and if they can find some team speed.
But it only works if the foundation is solid, if Giants pitchers especially Lincecum produce the same elite results of the past few seasons.
Lincecum had given up five earned runs and a home run in two innings against the Colorado Rockies in his previous Cactus League start. There were some questions about Lincecum's velocity.
One bad spring outing doesn't mean much except to someone as competitive as Lincecum and to the excitable fan following and media scrum he attracts.
Monday, following a vintage performance, Lincecum admitted that his father delivered one message to him in a recent visit: "He told me it's OK to relax and take it easy," Lincecum said. "He knows my mind is running 100 miles per hour out there."
Lincecum also admitted that he wanted to do better Monday, despite the party line that his rough outing against the Rockies meant nothing.
"As athletes, as competitors, we always want a good outcome," he said.
He got it. As usual, Giants fans traveled well even to Surprise, which is roughly 40 miles from the Giants' spring home in Scottsdale.
When Lincecum trotted to the dugout after his pregame warmup session, he got a standing ovation. And every moment he was on the field, the volume was louder.
"The adjustment was, he got the ball down," said Giants manager Bruce Bochy.
With his dad's advice in his mind, Lincecum went to work on his physical approach to each batter.
"I was focusing on my shoulders, to have that over-the-top motion," he said, likening his arm movement to a straight line downward.
"I was focusing on keeping the same arm slot so all my (pitches) would be true."
Lincecum's fastball was back in the low 90s. His curveball and changeup were working as opposing bats missed them badly.
The only hit was a comebacker by Royals outfielder Jarrod Dyson. The grounder glanced off Lincecum's left cleat and rolled for an infield hit. A throwing error by Giants catcher Eli Whiteside paved the way for Dyson to score the Royals' run unearned.
Lincecum even added a wrinkle to his game. The elite pitcher whose primary weakness has been his indifference to holding runners actually picked off one Royals first baseman Eric Hosmer.
In a regular-season game, this sequence would have been critical to the final score.
Dyson had just scored on a fielder's choice from third, where he stood after Whiteside's errant throw on Dyson's steal attempt of second. Hosmer walked, Lincecum's second free pass and last of this outing, and the score was 2-1 with one out.
Knowing Lincecum's lax reputation with runners, Hosmer was poised to go until Lincecum got him to overcommit and picked him off.
"That's not (Lincecum's) strength, but he can be good at it," Bochy said.
How much better could Lincecum be if runners couldn't steal on him with abandon? Lincecum then struck out Alex Gordon swinging and walked off the field to a wild ovation.
Behind Lincecum, reserve infielder Joaquin Arias made some stellar plays at second base, including a tough throw to first while his body was falling toward second.
Outfielder Gregor Blanco impressed again with three hits, some blazing speed on the bases and an RBI.
Brett Pill looked strong again at first. Third baseman Conor Gillaspie hit a solo home run.
Bochy admitted that with more performances like these, he has some tough roster decisions ahead, a good problem to have.
Everything is better when the ace is back on top.