SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Tim Lincecum is a reliever for the time being, two years after he pitched the Giants' Game 5 World Series clincher at Texas.
The struggling two-time NL Cy Young Award winner pitched two innings out of the bullpen for San Francisco in Game 2 of the NL division series against the Cincinnati Reds on Sunday night. His team trailed 1-0 after losing Saturday's opener 5-2.
Manager Bruce Bochy named right-hander Ryan Vogelsong his Game 3 starter for Tuesday in Cincinnati — and Bochy said he already picked a pitcher for a potential Game 4. He wouldn't say whether the Giants would turn to Matt Cain on three days' rest but said an announcement on the tentative plan could come by late Sunday.
"My reaction is I know what to prepare for now," said Lincecum, who went through pregame work with the relievers. "I'll go in with that mindset today and whatever they want me to do. That's really all I can do. I don't make up the lineup. As much as I'd like to start, I don't have that say. He's the one making the decisions. That's what he's there for and I'm all for that."
Lincecum is the franchise leader in wins for a single postseason with four from 2010.
He went 10-15 with a 5.18 ERA and 190 strikeouts in his sixth major league season. The losses were a career high.
Lincecum started Game 5 of the 2010 NL championship series then pitched in relief in Game 6 following a day off. Otherwise, the right-hander has rarely been a reliever — just once in April 2008. Bochy planned to use him in long relief if the situation called for him, preferably at the start of a fresh inning.
He pitched the sixth and seventh innings Sunday, allowing one hit and striking out two. He pumped his fist after striking out Ryan Hanigan to end the sixth.
"I'm just looking forward to whenever I get on the field, whether that's starting," Lincecum said. "Nothing's saying I'm going to come out of the bullpen today. Just waiting for that chance. When it comes up I'll do my best."
Bochy called it a tough decision, comparing this situation to leaving left-hander Barry Zito off the postseason roster for all three rounds during the 2010 run to the franchise's first championship since 1954.
Zito, meanwhile, is another option out of the bullpen if needed. San Francisco won Zito's final 11 starts.
The 2002 AL Cy Young Award winner with the Oakland Athletics had his best season since joining the Giants on a $126 million, seven-year contract before the 2007 season. Zito won his last five starts and seven decisions of the regular season since a loss Aug. 2 to the Mets.
"I wouldn't rule out anything," Bochy said of a Game 4 — if the series gets that far.
Lincecum was the first Giants starter since Livan Hernandez in 2001 to make at least 30 starts and have an ERA as high as 5.18. The 28-year-old pitcher also allowed a majors-high 28 runs in the first inning after giving up only eight all of last year.
While he was 1-6 with a 9.00 ERA in his first nine road starts, Lincecum was 5-0 with a 3.16 ERA over his final six away from AT&T Park.
Ultimately, Bochy decided based on the consistency of playoff first-timer Vogelsong (14-9, 3.37 ERA). He threw a bullpen session Saturday after being told the plan a couple of days ago.
"I talked to Timmy, Timmy knows," Bochy said. "Timmy understands. It's fair to say it's been an up-and-down year for Timmy. It's been a fight for him all year."