SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. (AP) — Tim Lincecum strode to the mound inside a nearly empty Scottsdale Stadium, the only sounds coming from the birds and the cars on the streets outside.
The two-time Cy Young Award winner picked up a ball, started his motion and let it fly as radar guns rose behind the plate. A series of camera clicks followed, then a pop of the glove.
The radar guns went down, pencils furiously scribbled and Lincecum started all over again.
“It’s different, a lot like high school, trying to show your stuff off again,” Lincecum said.
A free agent on the mend from hip surgery, Lincecum threw 41 pitches Friday for about three dozen scouts representing nearly every major league club at the spring training home of the only team he’s ever played for, the San Francisco Giants.
The 31-year-old right-hander mixed up his pitches and hit most of his spots during his showcase, consistently reaching 88 mph to 91 mph on the scouts’ radar guns. He felt good after and now hopes to catch on with a big league team soon, preferably as a starter.
“I’m happy,” Lincecum said. “I was able to throw strikes with my pitches, stay within myself, commanded all of my pitches. I only had a couple of misses and they weren’t out over the plate, so that’s encouraging for me.”
One of baseball’s best pitchers in his prime, Lincecum won the NL Cy Young Award in 2008 and 2009 and made four All-Star Game appearances. He helped the Giants win three World Series titles in five years and had a pair of no-hitters against San Diego in an 11-month span between the 2013 and 2014 seasons.
Lincecum earned his nickname “The Freak” by defying the stereotype of what a big-league pitcher is supposed to be, generating massive amounts of torque with his 5-foot-11, 170-pound frame.
Needing a long stride to generate the leverage, Lincecum started having trouble with his hips due to the pounding, seeing his velocity dip and his ERA rise as he was forced to throw mostly with his arm.
The right-hander went 7-4 with a 4.13 ERA in 15 starts last season and did not pitch after June 27 due to degenerative issues with his hips.
Lincecum had surgery on Sept. 3 and did not sign with a team after finishing up a $35 million, two-year contract last season.
He worked through the offseason to rehabilitate his hip and has spent the past few weeks pitching on back fields at the Giants’ spring training complex.
Lincecum arrived at Scottsdale Stadium about an hour before his session, slipping into the clubhouse as about a dozen fans gathered in the parking lot.
Lincecum emerged from the clubhouse about 15 minutes before he was schedule to throw, walking down a few steps and hopping a short fence down the first base side instead of going through the dugout.
Wearing green shorts with leggings underneath and a black shirt with blue stripes down the sleeves, Lincecum stretched, did some light running and played catch before walking back to the dugout.
Lincecum grabbed a box of balls before walking out to the mound as fans stood atop a parking garage beyond the left field wall to catch a glimpse.
He threw a few warmup pitches then went through two sessions with a five-minute break in between.
Most of the scouts seemed impressed with his outing, though the big questions are about his health and whether he could do it with live hitters at the plate.
“This whole process has taken a lot of time,” Lincecum said. “It’s been a little rigorous, a little Groundhog Day-ish, but making it to today and all the work that’s been put in to this point today has definitely showed today and I feel good about that.”
Lincecum’s outing was short, but he has been working toward lengthening his bullpen sessions so he could jump in as a starter. Numerous teams have shown interest in one of baseball’s most unique players, including his former team, which has struggled with its starting rotation recently.
“If it leads toward being a starter, that would be good,” Lincecum said. “I’ve been working my butt off with pitch counts, working off that five-day rotation to elongate myself as a pitcher and a starter. It just continues today.”