OAKLAND, Calif. -- Tim Lincecum looks back at his extreme, 30-pound weight loss before this season and wishes he had approached it all differently.
He insists he dropped it too fast, taking drastic measures. All because the two-time NL Cy Young Award winner didn't feel quite right at the 190 pounds he reached in 2011 eating whatever he wanted, whenever he wanted. The thing is, he was still winning then. But his body began to hurt, in ways it never had before.
He only just turned 28 on June 15.
"It's kind of coming to terms with my mortality," Lincecum said in a candid, 10-minute interview Saturday. "I always thought, 'Oh, I'm never going to be sore.' Like as a kid growing up, I was never sore. I never hurt, I could bounce back from things. I was like -- I don't even know, what kind of animal rebounds from everything? -- a dog. They bump their head and forget about it four seconds later."
Now, the San Francisco Giants right-hander (2-8) has added 10 pounds back on his slender frame to get to 167 -- and some scouts think he should keep pounding the junk food and calories because, perhaps, a little more on his body will lead to much more on his suddenly slower fastball and even his off-speed pitches that no longer zing as they did in his dominant days that at the moment seem so long ago.
Lincecum believes he made strides in his start Friday night at Oakland, even after a 43-pitch inning in which he fell behind 3-0 but found his rhythm in time to strike out the side. He didn't earn a decision in his team's 5-4 comeback win against the Athletics.
Manager Bruce Bochy had reliever Shane Loux warming up in the bullpen in the first but never had to go out early to replace Lincecum, who wound up lasting six innings while giving up three hits and no more runs. He struck out eight and walked four.
"That's the last thing I wanted to do. That would've been rock bottom for the kid," Bochy said. "It was more a credit to Timmy. He just had enough. He found his game at the right time, thank goodness. We have a lot of baseball left. This is a good start, I'll say that."
Yet Lincecum still hasn't won in 10 starts since beating San Diego on April 28, going 0-6 in the worst drought in a career that featured four All-Star selections in his first four full seasons after being selected 10th overall in the 2006 draft out of Washington and making his major league debut the following May.
After the first, Lincecum repeatedly told fellow starter Ryan Vogelsong how furious he had become, sprinkling in his regular array of curse words in their conversation.
"He called me over," Vogelsong said. "I didn't tell him anything he doesn't know. I just kind of reminded him, 'Hey, keep going.'"
On Saturday, Lincecum spent much of his time before the middle game of the Bay Bridge Series studying film in a corner of the clubhouse before heading to the training room for a rubdown on his back.
"As a pitcher, we get caught up in the fact that as a pitcher we're the center of attention, we've got to control the pace of the game and when we can't control things it upsets us," he said. "To not be able to control it at a level like this and also when it's continuously happening it kind of makes you check yourself and look in the mirror. ...
"Last night was the closest I think I got back to being myself. For me to say this is going to be the light switch that turns on and changes everything, I can't really say that. I still gave up three runs. I take that in the back of my mind. It's slicing unneeded pieces of clay away from the masterpiece or the work of art you're trying to make. For me that's, I wouldn't say reinventing myself but finding the edges, taking care of the things I wasn't necessarily worried about before. Until last night it was eluding me. To find things in the midst of (stinking) is kind of nice and refreshing."
Lincecum considers his latest struggles a much different case than the 0-5 August he endured in 2010 before rebounding and becoming the winning pitcher in the Game 5 World Series clincher at Texas that fall that brought the Giants their improbable championship -- the first for the city since the franchise moved West from New York in 1958.
"To be honest, I was lazy. I was a lazier person," Lincecum said. "Now, I don't feel like that's the case, I feel like I'm putting more time in between my starts and focusing better. That's also why it makes it so hard to look at yourself. It's easy to come into a game and not work as hard as everybody else has to and do well, and be like, 'Ha, I didn't have to do everything you guys did.'
"Now, I'm working as hard as they are, not because I feel I have to keep up with them, but because I know the game and I need to. The game calls upon you to do that. In 2010 in August ... it wasn't about me, it was the bigger picture. I'm a big believer in karma and things happen for a reason, and that August for me was a big wakeup call. I think this is a different animal."
Lincecum's fastball tops out these days at 92-93 mph but is often 90-91, a significant difference from his former 94 mph average. Whether he will regain some of his velocity with more weight on, nobody is sure.
"I want to feel I'm at a comfortable weight but I know I fluctuate so easily," Lincecum said. "I know I'm a picky eater, so that's even harder. When you come into a room and there's nothing but vegetables, you go, 'I'll just have a shake' or something like that.' It's just holding yourself accountable and remembering to do stuff.
"Last year I'd eat anything I wanted and I didn't even care. I was like, 'I don't care, I'm fat, I'm thicker than I'm used to being and I'm doing fine.' Then my body started feeling different. My legs started feeling the effects of the 30-plus pounds I'd put on. Anybody putting on 30-plus pounds is going to feel the effect.
"What happened is then I just completely changed it. I don't think that's a smart move either and I don't think the way I got rid of it was smart. I got rid of it way too fast, drastically. My focus became more getting back to my normal weight than pitching, throwing."
And, just because he is beginning to feel his age, that doesn't mean The Freak will start icing his arm -- or any other body part for that matter -- any time soon.
"I don't know," he said. "I don't think my dad would agree with that."