SAN FRANCISCO -- Despite leaving Arizona without their projected Opening Day second baseman Marco Scutaro and key reliever Jeremy Affeldt, the Giants had felt fortunate to have their starting rotation get through spring training intact.
That looked to be in jeopardy for a moment Friday night when Tim Lincecum was struck in the lower left leg by a line drive off the bat of A’s first baseman Daric Barton in the fourth inning of the teams’ Bay Bridge Series exhibition game.
The ball ricocheted off Lincecum’s leg and was picked up by catcher Buster Posey, who threw Barton out for the final out of the inning. Lincecum hobbled off the mound and tried to walk off under his own power before going to the ground. He ultimately left the field with his arms over two trainers’ shoulders, putting little weight on the leg.
The Giants, though, announced Lincecum suffered only a left knee contusion and that X-rays came back negative. And Lincecum later sounded tentatively hopeful he might not have to miss his first start of the season, scheduled for Thursday at Arizona.
"We’ll see how it feels tomorrow," Lincecum said. "It’s that second day that kind of hurts the most. But right now it feels pretty good."
For as potentially bad as things looked when Lincecum was sitting on the ground with Giants trainers and pointing at the inside of his knee, the right-hander was borderline nonchalant discussing the incident. Lincecum said the ball hit him on the "inside of the knee on that soft spot" and temporarily gave him a "dead leg."
"Just the initial impact kind of took that feeling out of the leg and it was more just a shocking thing," Lincecum said. "I just had to wait for the blood to get back into it and after that it was fine."
Even with the initial dead leg feeling, Lincecum said he was "not too worried."
"I knew it hit me in a good spot, or a relatively good spot," he said. "It didn’t hit me in the front of the kneecap. I just wanted to walk it off. … Like I said, I feel better now."
Asked to hazard a guess of whether Lincecum will be able to make his first start, Giants manager Bruce Bochy said: "If I had to guess right now he would be OK to start on Thursday. But again, I think we’ll have a better idea tomorrow."
If Lincecum did need to miss a turn, Bochy said, the likeliest replacement candidate may be right-hander Yusmeiro Petit, who is "probably the most stretched out."
"Hopefully (Lincecum is) fine -- like I said, I’m guessing that he is with the X-rays being negative," Bochy said. "But if it’s going to alter or affect his delivery then we’ll have to push him back. And we feel like we have some coverage there."
Lincecum said he’s basically in wait-and-see mode until Saturday. "But right now things are looking positive," he said, "at least the way I feel right now."
The play did cut Lincecum’s final spring start short after just four innings, in which he allowed one run on three hits with three walks and four strikeouts. The run came on a leadoff home run by A’s catcher John Jaso in the third inning, with Jaso jumping on the first pitch.
Lincecum said he "threw some good pitches here and there but left too many over the middle and up." He also wasn’t happy with the three walks, but attributed them to a mechanical issue and said he felt he "righted the wrong" after the third inning, when he walked two.
At the very least, the outing stopped what had been a troubling trend for Lincecum, who saw his runs allowed increase in each of his four final starts before leaving Arizona. He gave up seven in his final start, but despite battling his command at times Friday avoided any disastrous innings.
"I thought he was throwing well, I did," Bochy said. "He got ambushed on the one pitch, but overall I thought he had better command of stuff than his last outing, much improved. We have him close to where we’re hoping to get him."
* Not too much other news from a game the Giants lost 4-1, scoring their lone run in the ninth inning off A’s closer Jim Johnson. Oakland starter Jesse Chavez, the long reliever who moved into the rotation with injuries to Jarrod Parker and A.J. Griffin, didn’t allow a hit until Angel Pagan’s one-out double in the sixth inning.
Before Joaquin Arias singled to drive in Juan Perez in the ninth, the Giants hadn’t scored in the first 17 innings of this series. That’s not the way you want to go into a season, and the Giants have one more game in this series before an off-day Sunday and then a return to Arizona for the opener against the Diamondbacks.
"We had some guys cold coming into this series, so hopefully they’re getting through that because we’ve got to pick it up here," Bochy said. "This is going to be a big road trip for us, and we need to get these bats going, but we’re not getting anything going. It’s hard to do a lot when you can’t get somebody on base."
There’s been some concern about rain in the forecast, but it’s a scheduled 1:05 p.m. start Saturday at the Coliseum. The A’s plan to use both Tommy Milone and Dan Straily, so the Giants will have one more look at legitimate starting pitching before things really get underway -- whoever, that is, plays in this final tune-up.