In an exclusive with CSN Bay Area’s Andrew Baggarly, Giants starter Tim Lincecum says that although he is presently committed to starting so long as his team needs him — and with an injured Ryan Vogelsong and struggling Matt Cain, they do — he is open to converting fully as a reliever in the future. Lincecum currently has a 5.12 ERA in 11 starts, continuing the struggles that led to a 5.18 ERA over 33 starts last year. The Giants used him out of the bullpen in five of his six post-season appearances, however, and the right-hander allowed one run in 13 innings.
Lincecum spoke to the differences between starting and relieving:
“Out of the bullpen, your focus is different,” Lincecum said. “You’re not thinking about lasting. It’s, `Go until they tell you to stop.’ When you’re starting, when you see your pitch count go up in a bad inning, that can be at the forefront of your brain. You know it’s going to (limit how deep you can go). So I guess you could say it’s a lack of pressing, when you’re relieving.”
Lincecum is eligible for free agency after the season. Considering his recent adversity as a starter, you have to imagine potential suitors are viewing him more as a reliever than as a starter if they are even considering signing him at all.
Rob Biertempfel of The Athletic reports that the Pirates have decided to convert outfielder JB Shuck into a two-way player. Recent comments relayed from the club’s director of player development, Larry Broadway, indicated that the outfielder would be coached in developing his pitching skills while working at Triple-A Indianapolis.
Per Broadway, the change would be enacted to help the veteran outfielder develop some much-needed versatility in the majors, where he’s only ever been limited to outfield and DH responsibilities. Well, except for the two games in which he pitched an inning of relief: once, against the Nationals in a blowout 11-4 loss in 2016, then in a similarly painful loss to the Diamondbacks this past April. During the latter outing, he finished the game with a 13-pitch ninth inning after allowing just one hit and one walk.
Add to that one minor-league outing in 2012, and the 31-year-old Shuck has pitched just three times over the course of his 12-season career in pro ball. While he has three years of experience on the mound from his college days, he’ll need quite a bit of preparation to handle the kind of workload expected from a two-way outfielder/reliever: 20+ innings pitched over a season and 20+ games played as a designated hitter or position player.
Still, his lack of experience doesn’t seem to faze Broadway, at least not this early in the process. There’s no word yet on how soon Shuck would be expected to debut his new skillset on a major-league level.