Early in Monday night’s game between the Giants and Los Angeles Dodgers, the scoreboard at AT&T Park cut to a shot of Tim Lincecum watching from the Giants’ dugout, back with the team for the first time since having hip surgery earlier this month. The shot lasted mere seconds, but the crowd exploded into cheers.
The youthful right-hander remains adored by Giants fans who have watched him transform over nine seasons from a whirling, two-time Cy Young Award winner to a pitcher struggling with inconsistency and the effects of aging on his body. The latter manifested itself this year in a nagging hip condition that forced the Giants to shut down Lincecum, who made his last appearance June 27.
Still unclear is whether that will double as Lincecum’s final outing in a Giants uniform. Lincecum is headed for free agency this winter, and he will spend much of the offseason rehabilitating from the arthroscopic procedure performed Sept. 3 by Dr. Marc Philippon of the Steadman Clinic in Vail, Colo. He has been rehabbing in Arizona, and he planned to return Wednesday, making Tuesday night the final time he would be with the Giants this season.
I see myself being back on track with the program that I’m under.
Tim Lincecum on his rehabilitation from arthroscopic hip surgery
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Lincecum, 31, said he is open to re-signing with the Giants, for whom he has pitched his entire career. But he also said his focus is on coming back healthy after surgery, which has a projected recovery time of five to six months.
“Right now I’m kind of worried about myself a little bit,” Lincecum said. “It sounds a little selfish, but I think this is the first time I’ve ever had to deal with a major injury, so I’m trying to get my mind around that.”
Lincecum addressed reporters for about 10 minutes Tuesday afternoon while standing on crutches in a hallway outside the clubhouse. He hopes to be healthy for spring training next year, though he doesn’t know where he’ll be reporting and is unsure if he’ll be able to work out for teams this winter.
“I’m just worried about what I’ve got to do on a daily basis,” Lincecum said. “That feels like it’s been kind of overwhelming for me at times, too. So just trying to wrap my head around this whole rehab world, and obviously being away from the team is tough. That’s another tied-in thing.
“But with the offseason, I’ll just be able to focus a little bit more and think about the future, and hopefully I’ll have a better answer for you then.”
Though he described the rehab process as “tedious,” Lincecum seemed in good spirits about his prospects for recovery. He hopes to start putting full weight on his left leg in several days, adding the medical team overseeing his rehab is “exceptional – I feel like I’m in really good hands.”
For the energetic Lincecum, one challenge has been his relative immobility. He said he just started walking two days ago and isn’t allowed to do any upper-body exercises yet. He hasn’t been told when he might be able to resume throwing, though he said it has been expressed to him that the surgery might help him regain some of the velocity that was sapped partly by his hip issues.
“I think that’s what kind of made me lean more toward Philippon in the first place, is just because he seemed so confident, the way he spoke in a manner that was more like he knew where I’d be later as opposed to a question mark,” Lincecum said. “That gave me a lot of confidence going forward with him and gave me a lot of comfort with that.
“I see myself being back on track with the program that I’m under.”
It sounds a little selfish, but I think this is the first time I’ve ever had to deal with a major injury, so I’m trying to get my mind around that.
As for what kind of pitcher he’ll be when he returns, Lincecum acknowledged it’s too early to make that judgment. Some have suggested his future is as a reliever, a role he has played with varying success during the 2012 postseason and last year. Lincecum made 15 appearances for the Giants this season, all starts, and was 7-4 with a 4.13 ERA.
“Obviously when I can start building my endurance and start building my stamina as a pitcher, we’ll see where that goes,” Lincecum said. “Early on as I start throwing, I’ll have to work on my endurance more than I have in past seasons because I’ve had so much time off.
“It’ll be a good test for me. Obviously I’m really happy to take it on. But I don’t really have an answer for what my role will be necessarily next year.”
At the moment, Lincecum said he was just enjoying being around the Giants and at the stadium for a couple of days this week. When the scoreboard showed him Monday night, Lincecum looked a little surprised. He hopes to have another chance to acknowledge the fans before the season ends.
“I hope something happens,” he said. “Obviously I would like to show my appreciation one way or another, just because they’ve been with me day in and day out. These fans don’t get paid to be here; it’s on the other side. It’s completely selfless, and to be able to kind of give yourself in that way, I understand as a fan of sports, is pretty special. And I can definitely relate to it.”