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Originally published June 15, 2012 at 8:48 PM | Page modified June 16, 2012 at 4:29 PM

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Tim Lincecum returns to his comfort zone

The struggling Giants ace hopes a return home to Seattle will spark a breakthrough in his season.

Seattle Times staff reporter

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On Saturday, for the first time since his University of Washington glory days, Tim Lincecum will step to a mound in Seattle.

Rest assured he won't give one iota of thought to the fact he could have been a Mariner, even though much local angst has been spent lamenting Seattle's failure to draft him in 2006. That was two Cy Young Awards and one World Series title ago for Lincecum, so rest assured the "what if" lament only goes one way.

"I was completely content with what happened that day," Lincecum said Friday, meeting with reporters in the visiting clubhouse at Safeco Field. "I was on the golf course when it happened, and it was one of the best days of my life."

That's not to say Lincecum's return to Seattle with the Giants — on his 28th birthday, no less — didn't stir emotions within him, beyond "the wet, damp, green mountainous feeling" of being in Seattle that he cited in a recent interview.

Lincecum is enduring unprecedented struggles this season, as evidenced by his 2-7 record and 6.00 earned-run average. The Giants are 2-11 in games he has started, and "What's wrong with Timmy?" has become the burning question in the Bay Area.

Lincecum is hoping that returning to his roots will spur the long-awaited breakthrough, one that manager Bruce Bochy believes his erstwhile ace is on the verge of making.

"I think that every time he goes out," Bochy said Friday. "I'm not just saying that to say that. He's that close. His stuff is great. It's just one inning every start, then he pitches three or four innings like he can."

Lincecum said he's nothing more than "a homebody," which is why he sees pitching at Safeco as a positive. Some might think it might put more pressure on him, but he doesn't see it that way.

"I feel like it's tilting in my favor," he said. "I don't feel like it's a negative at all. I feel like this is a comfort zone for me. When I left for college, the reason I went to U-Dub was because it was close to home. One of the things that benefited me when I got drafted was San Francisco was the closest team to home.

"I'm a homebody. When I get back to here, I kind of get that comfort level. I'm not saying that I need to be to pitch, but I'm just saying that when you can take a break from everything going on, get a different perspective on things, see family, see friends, and kind of take the edge off."

Lincecum anticipates a jumble of emotions as he takes the mound to face the Mariners — some due to the homecoming aspect, and some related to his ongoing struggles.

"I'm excited for it, a little nervous," he said. "It's that good excitement, good nervousness. We'll see what happens. It's been a while since I've pitched in front of anybody in Seattle. For it to be now, in this kind of stage, at this time in the season when for me, I need to make my stand, I need to do something, I need to show people I'm still worth keeping in a rotation. Hopefully, this is a springboard. Right now, I feel good being here."

Upon arriving in Seattle Thursday night, the first thing Lincecum did was head over to see his father, Chris, his pitching mentor and confidante. The story of Chris teaching the mechanics of pitching to his son — such unique drills as snatching a dollar from the ground to emphasize the importance of his follow-through — are the stuff of legend. But Tim says their relationship has evolved beyond the mound.

"I think our relationship more has become about life," he said. "Back in the day, he was my coach and my teacher, getting me prepared for this life. Now I'm on my own, and he's had to let go over the last couple of years. We talk to each other, not as much as I'm sure people would think. We are still as close as we can be. We're so much alike we kind of butt heads on things, and we're both stubborn, so we know that. We get to bickering. We know the cycle. We know what we're going to talk about and how it's going to go. ... That's just our relationship. It's great to see him."

Lincecum's story this year somewhat parallels that of Felix Hernandez, another former Cy Young Award winner who also is dealing with decreased velocity and inconsistent results (though Hernandez's 3.70 ERA is much better than Lincecum's).

"It's a constant chess game," Lincecum said. "People find a way to adapt and get better. There's tons of scouting reports on guys, so you get tendencies. It works to both sides, and it's how much you take advantage of that. It's always changing yourself, but staying within yourself at the same time."

Larry Stone: 206-464-3146 or lstone@seattletimes.com.

On Twitter @StoneLarry

Lost Lincecum
The Giants have lost each of Tim Lincecum's past eight starts. During that stretch, Lincecum is 0-5 with a 6.15 earned-run average. Lincecum, who will pitch against the Mariners on Saturday, is 2-7 with a 6.00 ERA this season.
Date Opponent IP H ER BB SO Dec Score
May 4 Milwaukee 5.0 2 3 4 4 ND Brewers, 6-4
May 9 at Dodgers 5.0 8 4 2 8 L Dodgers, 6-2
May 15 Colorado 7.0 7 4 3 7 ND Rockies, 5-4
May 20 Oakland 4.0 5 4 3 5 L Athletics, 6-2
May 25 at Miami 5.2 6 6 4 5 L Marlins, 7-6
May 30 Arizona 7.0 4 1 5 6 L Diamondbacks, 4-1
June 5 at San Diego 6.0 5 4 1 8 ND Padres, 6-5
June 10 Texas 5.2 9 5 4 5 L Rangers, 5-0
Totals 8 games 45.1 46 31 26 48 0-8

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