Tim Lincecum sharp in showcase, but what's his role?

Tim Lincecum finishes a pitch from Friday's showcase to demonstrate he has recovered from hip surgery. Matt York/AP Photo

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- A few dozen scouts, executives and player development personnel attended Tim Lincecum's showcase in Scottsdale on Friday, many of them from teams who house part of their ops departments here in Arizona. Lincecum stretched, alone, in the outfield before his session began, then he threw 20 pitches from the windup, took a five-minute breather and returned to throw the second half of his pitches from the stretch.

Lincecum looked very muscular, but not overly so, and his stuff was generally solid if unspectacular.

His fastball generally ranged from 88 to 91 mph and touched 92, and it featured a little bit of late arm-side run but not enough for the pitch to really play up above his raw velocity. He maintained his velocity from the stretch but began to lose his release point late in the outing.

Release variance isn't necessarily a sign of fatigue. Lincecum's vertical arm slot makes it hard for him to command his fastball to all parts of the strike zone, and I believe the noticeable difference in release we saw late was caused by a desire to work the fastball to different parts of the strike zone in the only way it's really possible for him to do so.

The secondary stuff Lincecum threw was fine, highlighted by a slider that flashed above average in the 84 to 86 mph range. I think it's his best secondary pitch at this point, featuring a good amount of late, two-plane movement. The curveball was generally average for me, 74 to 77 mph, with arcing 12-6 depth and bite, and Lincecum showed an ability to throw it in the hypothetical strike zone. Lincecum's Vulcan changeup, once among the best pitches in all of baseball, was inconsistent. It flashed average in the 82 to 84 mph range with some late fade, but feel for the pitch eluded him, and he threw some well-below average changeups late in the session.

I think there's still a big leaguer here, albeit in a limited role as a relief option. While he doesn't have the mid-90s fastball and wipeout slider that is typical of today's bullpen arm, Lincecum's repertoire would be uniquely deep for a reliever.

If he can find a way to keep hitters off of his fastball -- either through some of the natural deception created by his delivery, by throwing his curveball for strikes early in counts, by finding changeup consistency or through some combination of these things -- I believe get outs at a rate that befits a big league reliever.

If Lincecum were to work as a starter, he'd need better fastball command than was evident in this workout and much better command than he has displayed in his recent healthy seasons. The electric, bat-missing fastball is gone, and more refined pitch location is needed. The secondary pitches are still solid enough for short-stint smoke and mirrors, but to pitch every fifth day and through a lineup multiple times requires a substantive foundation of sustainable fastball velocity or command -- or both -- and neither are evident with Lincecum right now.