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The Time Has Probably Come For Tim Lincecum

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With each hanging change-up, with each two-out hit, with each leadoff walk, with each fastball at the belt, I get a little closer to saying it: Tim Lincecum needs to go to the bullpen.

I'm not saying it yet. Well, I wrote it, but I hedged just the tiniest bit, so if he turns this whole fershlugginer two-year mess around in spectacular fashion, I'll be able to say "I never actually said it!" But if he keeps making hittable pitches in unfortunate situations and the hammer comes down, I'll whip out the I told you so.

I don't see it turning around, though. I know the strikeouts remain high. I know the stats are actually a bit better than last year. But it's still a grim slog every fifth night. Sigh. The only team that's seen the crisp, efficient Lincecum this year is San Diego (twice). Every other start, including tonight, has been fingernails on a chalkboard.

Lincecum for a brief shining stint was a very good long man out of the bullpen. Could he be so again? Let him trade places with Chad Gaudin, who's been a starter before. Gaudin wouldn't be needed in the pen with Lincecum there, so give him a shot in the rotation. He'd probably go four or five innings max the first couple times through, so do a Colorado thing and "piggyback" him with Lincecum. If Gaudin stretches out and does a decent fifth-starter job, all the better. If he doesn't, he can always go back to the pen.

What's it going to take? One more Lincecum start like tonight? Three? Five? Whenever it happens, it'll raise eyebrows and wag tongues, but remember, the Giants have been through that before when they excluded him from the rotation in the playoffs. The distraction factor will be minimal. And it doesn't have to be permanent.

Why Lincecum and not Vogelsong, who's been a lot worse this year measured by ERA and FIP? Because if Lincecum is once again a weapon out of the bullpen, he'll save the other relievers a lot of wear and tear. And Vogelsong, after a bad late-summer run in 2012, showed in the playoffs he could make spectacular adjustments. I'd like to see if he can again in the next month. If not, I might be writing a version of this post about him in mid-June.

So, with all that, I'm ready. We're all ready. Tim Lincecum, relief pitcher. Make it happen, Boch and Rags.

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