Tim Lincecum accepts his assignment to Triple-A

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The Angels designated Tim Lincecum for assignment over the weekend. It was earned, as he allowed six runs in the first inning against the Mariners in his last start. He was 2-6 with a 9.16 ERA in nine starts with Los Angeles, and even a team going nowhere like the Angels are can’t afford to run that out there every few days.

Lincecum had the option of refusing an assignment to the minor leagues. If he did, he would’ve become a free agent and could’ve tried to latch on someplace else. He decided this afternoon, however, that he’s better off heading back to Salt Lake City and has accepted the Angels assignment to Triple-A.

Cosmically this may be a good thing for him as it seems pretty clear that he can’t get big leaguers out. When last he pitched for Salt Lake, back in early June, he flirted with a no-hitter and looked pretty sharp. Maybe he’ll be able to figure things out there again, maybe he won’t, but he obviously needs to work some more.

Which means this was probably the right move tactically, too. At this point it seems highly unlikely another team would take a chance on him this season. A contender doesn’t want an ineffective pitcher and a losing team is only a couple of weeks away from opening up its roster and allowing younger, team-controlled players to eat up the innings and make their auditions. If Lincecum wants to land a spring training invitation from someone next season, he’ll have to have something positive going for him heading into the winter. Three or four starts at Salt Lake could be enough to convince someone to take a chance. And heck, maybe he winds up back in Anaheim after September 1.

Tim Lincecum’s fall from multi-year Cy Young Award winner to organizational depth has been a long one. But it’s still one that is hard to get one’s mind around.