Could Lincecum lose his spot in rotation?

August 6th, 2016

SEATTLE -- He put seven of the first nine hitters on base, allowed six runs before recording three outs and failed to complete six innings for the eighth consecutive start. By the time he was finished Friday, 's ERA had inflated to 9.16, the second-highest among pitchers who have registered at least 35 innings this season.

After the game, a 6-4 defeat to the Mariners, Angels manager Mike Scioscia clung to one phrase when asked repeatedly about Lincecum's standing in the rotation: "Our goal is to get Tim right."

Getting Lincecum right without jeopardizing the team's chances of winning, or even putting a heavy toll on the bullpen, doesn't appear realistic these days.

The 32-year-old right-hander has lost six of his nine starts in his return from major hip surgery. Over his last three outings, he has allowed 18 runs in a stretch of 9 2/3 innings, giving up 21 hits and 10 walks while striking out only four batters.

"I don't want to be patient," Lincecum said, "but obviously it's something I've had to grasp because of the way things have gone and the way this has progressed and the way I'm going after it. I'm not going out there just throwing bullpens against nobody. I'm still trying to get outs in the [American League] West, against good hitters. It just goes back to throwing quality strikes. I'm not doing it on a consistent basis to help myself out enough."

Lincecum joined the Angels on a pro-rated, incentive-laden $2.5 million contract towards the end of May. He pitched six innings of one-run ball in Oakland in his debut on June 18. But he has since allowed at least five runs five separate times, seemingly only maintaining his standing in the rotation because the Angels are devoid of alternative options.

Scioscia definitively stated that Lincecum would continue to start when he struggled mightily against the Astros on July 24, giving up eight runs and recording only four outs.

On Friday, the Angels' manager was non-committal.

"We haven't really digested some things," Scioscia said when asked if Lincecum would take his next turn. "We have to see what avenue it is to get him where he needs to be. So, if you ask me right now, I could say yes but obviously we have to sit down, review his video, see where the positives were, and see where we are."

The Angels' only other options appear to be , who has been serving as a long reliever since the beginning of July, or top pitching prospect Nate Smith, who has a 9.00 ERA over his last three Triple-A starts.

"Our goal is to get him right," Scioscia said when asked to specify whether Lincecum's next start is uncertain. "I don't want to have to put a heads or a tails on yes or no, what's going to happen in six days. Our goal is to get Tim right; that's what we're going to continue to do."

Lincecum -- pitching 15 minutes away from his hometown of Renton, Wash. -- was spotted an early 3-0 lead, on 's first-inning three-run homer off , but promptly gave it away.

He began by giving up four straight singles, to , , and . Two batters later, added another single, and followed with a sacrifice fly. And then hit a three-run homer, on a 3-2, 83-mph changeup that was located down in the zone.

"It's one of those things where you have to tip the cap," Lincecum said. "Even the swing he [Zunino] took didn't look like a great swing."

Lincecum allowed four of the next 12 batters to reach base, but didn't allow any other runs in a 3 1/3-inning outing. Scioscia said that "in some areas it looked like Tim took a couple steps forward," and Lincecum came away thinking he's "in the direction I need to go."

But he lamented not throwing his fastball often enough, knowing that the Mariners were sitting back on his off-speed pitches - and he knows there is still a long process ahead of him.

"It's going to be a battle to get back," Lincecum said, "but nothing that I can't work on between my start."