'Freak' at 30: Lincecum reflects, looks ahead in Q&A
Two-time NL Cy Young Award winner believes his best days are still to come
SAN FRANCISCO -- Tim Lincecum turns 30 on Sunday. Is that possible?
The Giants right-hander has kept the youthful visage that captivated scores of fans -- along with his pitching -- when he reached the Major Leagues in May 2007. Since then, Lincecum altered his hair style and dabbled with a mustache. Mostly, however, by retaining a familiar look and staying with the Giants throughout his eventful career, Lincecum has enabled fans to bask in the illusion of timelessness.
Reality, of course, is relentless. Lincecum not only aged with the rest of us, but also endured his own form of physical deterioration. Time robbed him of a few miles per hour on his fastball. Yet baseball insiders widely agree that Lincecum still possesses enough skill to perform successfully. The two-time National League Cy Young Award winner and four-time All-Star proved that last July 13, when he no-hit San Diego.
MLB.com recently caught up with Lincecum for a question-and-answer session that initially focused on his milestone birthday before veering into diverse topics.
MLB.com: About five years ago, you described Matt Cain's demeanor by saying, "He acts like he's 30." Now, here you are at that age. What impression does it make on you?
Lincecum: I think I'm evolving as a person, obviously. Maybe not evolving in this game as much as I'd like, but there are probably growing pains with it. When I said that about Matt, I meant that he acts mature for his age, and 30 seemed really far away at the time (laughs). ... When you're 16, you're looking (toward) the 18th birthday; when you're 18, you're looking for the 21st. I think 30 is the next number beyond 21 that becomes relevant. That's all it is for me, just a number. But it's one of those numbers that people celebrate a lot.
MLB.com: Have you ever heard the saying, "Never trust anyone over 30"?
Lincecum: No. I haven't been around that long.
MLB.com: How do you think you've changed since you reached the Majors?
Lincecum: I think I'm more of a cerebral pitcher. I've always been analytical, and I've always been my hardest critic, along with my father. But I've learned to accept the process a little bit easier, not beat myself up on a daily basis so much, which used to be way easier back then because I was quick to judge myself. Now you start to take things in on a day-to-day basis. It makes it easier to get through. They call it "the grind" for a reason. I'm learning how to take better care of myself. I'm learning myself better, maybe, as a pitcher. That's where I'm trying to evolve as well, trying to grasp what's going on out there.
MLB.com: There's been a lot of continuity on this team, hasn't there?
Lincecum: There definitely has, especially the last four years. That speaks to the organizational vibe. It also speaks to us. You can't just put people together and tell them to work together. You have to want to. That's where we are right now. I don't think it's an ego-filled team at all. It's the opposite of that, if anything. You've got guys wanting to prove themselves on the day they get a chance. Everybody's ready. Everybody's pumped about it. I think that having a positive mindset going into your daily grind makes things easier.
MLB.com: How do you think you've changed personally since you got here?
Lincecum: I feel personally I'm still the same guy. I don't think I've changed all that much. I've learned some things here or there, just with time itself. But I'm sticking to my roots in who I am and trying to do my best with that.
MLB.com: "Sticking to my roots" -- you seem like a guy who doesn't forget where he came from.
Lincecum: Definitely. I'll always be that homebody and Seattle will always be home, no matter where I am. I don't know if that's something bred in me or if that's something I've learned through the years of being away from home. Every choice I've made has been fortunate or because of the fact that I wanted to be close to home. I picked U-Dub (the University of Washington); I got lucky with playing here.
MLB.com: Do you feel more mature?
Lincecum: Small things. My diet's going to be here and there sometimes, but it's more focused during the season, because I have to be. I've learned that about myself. I guess one thing would be knowing myself better and knowing that I'm not invincible. When you're a kid, you used to think, "I can do anything and I'm never going to get hurt." It doesn't always happen that way, but you start to feel the rigors of it as the seasons go on. You remember how to deal with it as opposed to pushing it to the side or saying "I don't know" and give up. I think I've learned a little bit more fight in myself. It's a battle. It's easy when things are going good. But when they're hard, that's when you learn the most about yourself and what you're made of.
MLB.com: You made that comment recently about people sometimes not realizing that the difference between ...
Lincecum: The difference between being good and bad is very minute, especially at this level. That's why I always try to stay even-keeled. You can't get too excited about the good things because they're not that far away from being bad, and vice-versa. It just helps you keep things in perspective. You're not overly stressed that one day, or one moment.
MLB.com: With that in mind, do you feel like your better days are still ahead?
Lincecum: Definitely. I'm still passionate about the game. I'm not sure if that's ever going to die in me. It's fun going pretty good and finding a new love and appreciation for the game, you know what I mean?
MLB.com: Well, you always struck me as a guy who loves different dimensions about the game.
Lincecum: Yeah. I like the camaraderie. I love the athletic side of it where I can still be myself out there.