The most dominant pitcher in Fresno Grizzlies history – even if it was just for a brief stretch – will take the mound again at Chukchansi Park.
But this time he’ll face the hometown team.
Tim Lincecum, the former San Francisco Giants ace who played for the Grizzlies nine years ago, will start against his old Triple-A team Sunday while suiting up for the Salt Lake Bees. First pitch is at 5:05 p.m.
It’ll be Lincecum’s third and possibly final tuneup in the minors before returning to the majors with his new organization, the Los Angeles Angels.
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Lincecum, 31, might not perform like the Cy Young Award winner he was in 2008 and 2009.
But Fresno fans, Salt Lake teammates and even Grizzlies players all seem excited to see “Big Time Timmy Jim” pitch again.
It’s a cool experience. It’s days like that you get excited because you get to face someone who you’ve watched pitch in the big leagues for a long time.
Fresno Grizzlies first baseman A.J. Reed on facing Tim Lincecum
“It’s a cool experience,” said Grizzlies prospect A.J. Reed, a first baseman. “It’s days like that you get excited because you get to face someone who you’ve watched pitch in the big leagues for a long time.”
Lincecum was 22 when he played for the Grizzlies in 2007. The Fresno franchise was the Giants’ Triple-A affiliate then.
He started five games, four in Fresno, and went 4-0 with a 0.29 ERA and 46 strikeouts in 31 innings. Batters hit .119.
That helped cap Lincecum’s rapid rise to the big leagues, where he helped the Giants win three World Series championships and was a four-time All Star.
“I grew up watching him through high school and college, so it’ll be pretty cool,” said Grizzlies pitcher Brady Rodgers, who will start for Fresno. “But I’m not really going against him. He’s just another pitcher.
“I think it’d be different if it was like a stud hitter in the game, like a Mike Trout rehabbing for them. With another pitcher, just treat it like any other game.”
Perhaps for some Grizzlies players, but not for many fans, who have jockeyed for position to get his autograph during the teams’ four-game Pacific Coast League series.
“I can’t believe he’s back,” a female fan said to her friend. “This is so awesome.”
After nine seasons with the Giants, Lincecum signed with the Angels last month and has been with Triple-A Salt Lake in what essentially is his personal, shortened version of spring training.
15 Games that former Giants ace Tim Lincecum was limited to last season because of injury. He underwent hip surgery in September and is looking to join his new organization, the Los Angeles Angels, soon.
Lincecum was limited to 15 games and 76.1 innings last year because of injury and underwent hip surgery in September.
Through his first two games in his return to the Triple-A level, Lincecum is 0-2 with a 4.50 ERA and 11 strikeouts and five walks over 10 innings. He’s lasted just five innings each time.
Salt Lake manager Keith Johnson said Lincecum will not be on a pitch count Sunday.
“He’s close, really close,” Johnson said “It’s just a comfort thing for him right now. All the nerves are out now. Now, is everything feeling good? He’ll know.
“It’s Tim Lincecum. He knows what it takes to compete at the major league level.”
Lincecum declined to speak to the media until after his Sunday outing, but he appears to be enjoying the visit and his time in the minors. He arrived Thursday, even though most didn’t expect him, as a veteran major leaguer, until Saturday night or early Sunday ahead of his starting assignment.
Though Tim Lincecum is a two-time Cy Young Award winner and a millionaire, he seemed as courteous as can be while taking time to sign autographs after each batting practice session during Salt Lake’s series in Fresno.
He worked the “bucket” the first day, considered the least-desirable responsibility of pitchers during pregame batting practice. But he smiled and laughed the whole time while shagging balls and racing back and forth to deposit them into the pail.
Lincecum signed autographs after batting practice for early-arriving fans.
And he shared laughs and cheered on teammates from the dugout during the game.
“He’s been great,” Johnson said. “Everything I heard about him joining our club was he was humble. So it’s not surprising at all.
“It’s been awesome. I think for him, being back on a team, he’s feeling good about that again. He’s having fun and we’re enjoying having him around.”
SALT LAKE BEES AT FRESNO GRIZZLIES
- Sunday: 5:05 p.m. at Chukchansi Park
- Records: Grizzlies (25-34), Bees (29-30)
- Radio: KYNO (AM 1430)
- Of note: Ex-San Francisco and Grizzlies ace Tim Lincecum starts for the Bees. … Salt Lake manager Keith Johnson is a Hanford native