By JANIE McCAULEY
AP Baseball Writer
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) _ The long hair and glasses are gone. Tim Lincecum has turned to a short `do with a fuller patch of hair in the middle and an occasional headband to hold it all in place.
It seems the ever-popular San Francisco pitcher has reinvented his look about as regularly as he has his delivery in recent years _ and, for now at least, it’s all working well.
His father, Chris, is back in the picture as his personal guide since Lincecum again went to work finding himself last winter.
Lincecum had to adjust everything about his craft in order to resurrect his position with San Francisco, and it shows in his encouraging results so far, though he hardly has the overpowering stuff that carried him to a pair of NL Cy Young Awards early in his career.
“I’m trying to ride whatever’s going on right now,” said Lincecum, who makes his next start Friday at Philadelphia following the World Series champions’ off day Thursday at the White House to visit President Barack Obama.
Lincecum skipped it, opting instead to fly separately Thursday morning to Philadelphia and rest for his start.
“I hope he doesn’t miss me,” the pitcher said of the president. “I don’t want to seem ungrateful for the opportunity.”
But Lincecum is most concerned about being fresh for Friday to keep a good thing going, eager to bounce back from losing his last outing Saturday against Atlanta. He is 5-3 and was 4-0 over five starts until that defeat.
“I try not to take it as a lump sum, look at it as a whole,” he said of moving forward each time.
There have been ample opportunities to celebrate small strides.
He is getting through the heart of opponents’ orders, like when he struck out Marlins slugger Giancarlo Stanton with the bases loaded to end the fifth inning in a win against the Marlins last month. That sparked the right-hander to pump his right arm in triumph and yell.
He had a 23-inning scoreless streak at home that the Braves ended.
Giants manager Bruce Bochy said from the moment last season ended that Lincecum would begin 2015 back in the rotation. He was relegated to a bit relief role as San Francisco captured its third World Series in five years.
“I saw it last year,” Bochy said of Lincecum finding his form. “He has that ability to pitch the way he’s pitching. The guy’s won two Cy Youngs. You’re saying, `OK, it’s not quite the same.’ Last year he had a run of four or five starts where he was pitching the way he’s pitching right now. Knock on wood he continues that. I’m not surprised. It’s a case these guys have the experience and savvy to go with. The stuff may not quite be the same but they’re smarter, too.”
Before Game 2 of the World Series last fall, Lincecum hadn’t pitched since Sept. 28. He wasn’t used in relief during the NL Division Series against Washington or the NLCS versus St. Louis.
That was a big change.
Lincecum, who turns 31 on June 15, pitched the Game 5 World Series clincher at Texas and was a key reliever during the 2012 title run and four-game sweep of Detroit. While Lincecum pitched his second no-hitter in 11 months against the Padres on June 25, the struggling four-time All-Star was moved to the bullpen in late August.
“There’s got to be a lot of credit to Tim kind of resurrecting his career,” Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. “He’s not the same Lincecum that won two Cy Youngs. He’s a little different guy. He changed his delivery. Good for him. He figured it out.”
Lincecum finally feels like himself again thanks to some mechanical tweaks and hard work on his delivery.
“When I get a chance to go out there and compete, it’s fun for me,” he said. “The way things are going right now, it’s something I want to keep going, obviously, try to ride it out and continue reiterating what I’ve been doing.”
For Bochy, it’s a thrill to see Lincecum take the mound with a swagger again, fist pumping and putting less pressure on himself.
“He’s into it. Timmy’s competitive, I think a lot more than people realize. They see this free spirit kid that they like to call The Freak,” Bochy said. “When things don’t go well he gets upset but when they do go well, he pitches with emotion. That’s a good thing. He’ll let it out sometimes, not very often.”