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On June 2, Tim Lincecum wasn't talking about no-hitters or double-digit strikeout games. In fact, on June 2, Tim Lincecum wasn't even talking about his next start.
On June 2, Tim Lincecum was talking about the possibility of moving to the bullpen in the not-so-distant future. And you couldn't blame him. Through 11 starts, Lincecum was 3-5 with a 5.12 ERA. He'd sustained three straight losses in which he allowed no fewer than four runs in each, lasting just 4 1/3 innings in a loss to the A's in his most recent start on May 29. It was then that Lincecum told CSN's Andrew Baggarly that, while he was focused on remaining a starter through 2013, he was "very open" to the idea of being a reliever in the future.
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But if his performance as a starter through the first two months led to that line of questioning, his play since then has made it, well, a non-starter. Lincecum dominated the Brewers on Thursday, holding them to one hit while striking out eight through eight shutout innings.
It was the latest exhibit in what's been a resurgence for Lincecum in recent months. Since that start on May 29, Lincecum has a 3.39 ERA and an 82/22 K/BB ratio over 77 innings. Included in those 12 starts are three games in which he's recorded double-digit strikeouts, including in the no-hitter on July 13. And removing the 3 2/3 innings, eight runs allowed start immediately after the no-hitter -- a stumble not uncommon following such performances -- he owns a 2.58 ERA since the start of June.
Asked what the difference has been since those first two months, Lincecum said the biggest change has been his mentality on the mound.
"I'm just trying to stay within myself and know that I'm not going to throw a 95 mph fastball anymore, so why try to throw it?" Lincecum told the San Jose Mercury News. "I'm trying to use what I've got and get outs with it, and that means throwing to better locations and buying into that process.
"It's been a long process for me, but I think it's finally coming around."
Lincecum's Cy Young days are over, but his days of being a productive fantasy starter are not. He's still unowned in about 15 percent of Yahoo! leagues, a number that's too high given his recent performance. I'm a believer in Big Time Timmy Jim.
The ripple effects of Shelby Miller's early exit on Wednesday continue, this time in the form of a spot start for a highly touted prospect.
Michael Wacha will be recalled by the Cardinals on Saturday to make a start against the Cubs, giving the rest of the rotation an extra day of rest following Wednesday's debacle. Joe Kelly will start Sunday, and Adam Wainwright will be pushed back to the beginning of the Pirates series on Tuesday.
With Triple-A Memphis this season, Wacha is 5-3 with a 2.65 ERA and a 73/19 K/BB ratio in 85 innings of work. Since being demoted on June 14 after a stint with the big club, Wacha has struck out 39 batters, walking just four, in 33 1/3 innings.
It's not a given that the start will be Wacha's last with the Cardinals, either. Concerns about the workload of young starter Shelby Miller and Jake Westbrook's ineffectiveness could lead the Cardinals to pursue a six-man rotation for the near future. Cardinals manager Mike Matheny did little dispel the idea that Wacha could be a fixture in the rotation going forward.
"We've been talking about Michael for a while, trying to get him back into the mix here," Matheny told Cardinals.com. "It's been that balance all season, not getting the young guys too much, but also getting them enough. I think this will be a good opportunity to get Michael here."
His first go-round with the big club was less-than-great, as he posted a 4.58 ERA in 17 2/3 innings over three starts, but the 22-year-old is talented enough to warrant a look in deeper mixed leagues. If nothing else, his start against the Cubs on Saturday could yield a nice return.
The non-waiver trading deadline may be in the past, but that doesn't mean the trades are.
A report on Thursday said the Rangers put in a waiver claim on White Sox outfielder Alex Rios. The two sides have until Friday to work out a deal, or the White Sox will likely pull Rios back and keep him for the time being.
In the event a trade does happen -- and nobody is holding out much hope that it will at this point -- Rios' value will go up, but only slightly. While Rios may see a negligible increase in his counting stats, such a deal would have more real-life implications for a team fighting for a playoff spot that recently lost its right fielder for the remainder of the season.
National League Quick Hits: Matt Kemp (ankle) played catch on Wednesday and ran in place on flat ground and with elevation on Wednesday and Thursday. He's still not expected back until September ... Kemp's teammate Hanley Ramirez (shoulder) hit off a tee and lightly swung a bat on Wednesday and Thursday. He should avoid the DL, but it's still unclear when he'll return to game action ... Cardinals GM John Mozeliak is "very optimistic" that Yadier Molina (knee) will return when first eligible on August 15 ... Jason Grilli (forearm) is scheduled to begin a throwing program this weekend. He's on track to be ready to return by early September ... Aramis Ramirez (knee) will not be activated from the DL on Friday as anticipated ... Rickie Weeks (hamstring) was placed on the 15-day disabled list. Scooter Gennett was recalled in his place and will likely see the majority of the time at second base in Weeks' absence ... LaTroy Hawkins earned his second save of the season on Thursday. He looks to be the guy in the Mets' ninth inning while Bobby Parnell is out ... Jimmy Rollins cleared waivers. He still owns a no-trade clause, though ... Carlos Martinez left his first major league start on Thursday with a right index finger cramp ... Rockies placed Tyler Chatwood (elbow) on the 15-day DL ... Shelby Miller (elbow) doesn't expect to miss a start.
American League Quick Hits: Max Scherzer allowed two runs en route to his 17th win. So who finishes second in the Cy Young voting? ... Salvador Perez (concussion) took a supervised jog and underwent additional physical testing on Thursday. He's eligible to return on Sunday, but it might be a bit longer before he's back ... Jason Vargas (arm) allowed four runs, including three home runs, in his first rehab start with Triple-A Salt Lake. He could be ready to rejoin the Angels after just the one start ... Alex Avila will undergo tests for a possible concussion. Brayan Pena will get the bulk of the playing time in his absence, however long that may be ... Omar Infante (ankle) returned to the lineup for Triple-A Toledo on Thursday. Ankle soreness kept him out of action on Wednesday.