Timmy is back? Lincecum delivers best start of season

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“Timmy was Timmy today.”

At least, that’s what manager Bruce Bochy said after the two-time Cy Young Award winner shut out the Dodgers for seven innings and struck out eight in a 3-0 win.

It was Lincecum’s first victory since April 28. He lowered his ERA from 6.07 to 5.60.

Lincecum’s turnaround actually seemed to begin last week against the A’s. In that one, he overcame a dreadful three-run first to retire 18 of the final 20 hitters he faced.

Along the way, Lincecum apparently picked up a new personal catcher. Bochy said he talked to Buster Posey last night and informed him that Hector Sanchez would do the catching for Lincecum for now. Posey started at first base today and went 1-for-2 with two walks.

Of course, it should be noted that Lincecum’s success in his last two starts has come against two incredibly underwhelming lineups. After the Dodgers lost Andre Ethier in the first inning to a strained oblique today, their best hitter was either A.J. Ellis or Bobby Abreu.

Still, Lincecum is showing both better velocity and command than he started the season with. It’s doubtful he’ll return to Cy Young form, but maybe he’ll resume being an asset as the Giants attempt to win the NL West. After completing a three-game sweep today, they and the Dodgers have identical 43-33 records.

Evan Longoria: “I just kind of feel sorry for the Rays fan base.”

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The Rays were busy over the weekend, trading starter Jake Odorizzi to the Twins, designating All-Star outfielder Corey Dickerson for assignment, and then picking up C.J. Cron in a deal with the Angels. The Rays saved about $4 million — Odorizzi’s $6.3 million less Cron’s $2.3 million salary — and picked up a prospect. They’re still on the hook for Dickerson’s $5.95 million salary until they can find a trade partner, which seems likely.

Those are some head-scratching moves if you’re a Rays fan or a member of the Rays. Dickerson hit .282/.325/.490 with 27 home runs, 62 RBI, and 84 runs scored in 629 plate appearances last season, part of which resulted in his first trip to the All-Star Game. Designating him for assignment is strictly a financial move, assuming he can be traded. The Rays are currently operating with a payroll below $70 million. This comes just a week and a half after Rays ownership proposed the public footing most of the bill for the club’s new stadium. And the Rays had traded third baseman Evan Longoria — then the face of the franchise — to the Giants earlier this offseason.

Longoria expressed sympathy for Rays fans for having to put up with this. Via Andrew Baggarly, Longoria said of the curious Dickerson move, “I just kind of feel sorry for the Rays fan base. … I’m not going to take too many shots but it’s pretty obvious that guy is a valuable player and didn’t deserve to be DFAd. Corey was our best player last year.”

Longoria isn’t quite on the money there. By WAR, Dickerson ranked fifth among position players on the team, according to Baseball Reference. FanGraphs is also in agreement. Still, it’s indisputable that Dickerson, who turns 29 years old this May, more than pulled his weight. The Rays do not have a surfeit of starting outfielders, so it wasn’t like they were making room for other capable players. Mallex Smith, who put up a .684 OPS in 282 PA last year, is slated to start in left field at the moment. Designating Dickerson for assignment, as well as trading Longoria and Odorizzi, were simply cost-cutting decisions.

The Rays’ M.O. has been part of the problem leading to the current stagnant free agent market (sans Eric Hosmer‘s eight-year deal on Saturday). Teams like the Rays, Phillies, Reds, and Tigers have been explicitly putting out non-competitive teams in order to facilitate a rebuilding process. Longoria is right to express sympathy for Rays fans, who see their favorite team worsening a roster that went 80-82 last year. The Rays haven’t finished at .500 or above since 2013 and doesn’t figure to halt the streak this year.