UW’s Lincecum has always had to deal with questions about his size

  • By Mike Allende / Herald Writer
  • Saturday, June 3, 2006 9:00pm
  • Sports

SEATTLE – Tim Lincecum will find out sometime Tuesday how much size really does matter.

It’s clear that the University of Washington junior right-handed pitcher will be a first-round pick when the Major League Baseball Amateur Draft begins that day. He’s the top prospect from the state and Baseball America ranks the Renton native as the No. 2 prospect in the nation. But that doesn’t mean the Colorado Rockies will select Lincecum with the second pick. Despite an incredible senior season in which he led the NCAA in strikeouts and set school records for wins and strikeouts, there are still questions surrounding Lincecum.

Chief among them is how will the 6-foot, 165-pounder with the unorthodox cork-screw delivery hold up over the long haul of a professional baseball season? But the size question is something Lincecum feels he’s answered time after time.

“It’s been that way my whole life,” Lincecum said. “I’ve always had to deal with it. It’s just really old to me and it doesn’t bother me anymore. If I let that get to me, I’ll start doubting myself. I just let my play do my talking for me.”

He’s certainly done that.

Lincecum is one of five finalists for the Golden Spikes Award, given to the nation’s top amateur player. He’s a two-time Pacific-10 Conference Pitcher of the Year. He holds the UW record for career wins (30) and strikeouts (491). In his just completed senior year, Lincecum was 12-4 with a 1.94 earned run average, three saves, a .173 average against and 199 strikeouts in 1251/3 innings. His fastball has been clocked at 100 miles an hour and his curveball is the best UW coach Ken Knutson has ever seen.

That’s on top of a dominating performance last summer pitching for the Harwich Mariners in the Cape Cod League, the top summer collegiate baseball league in the country. For Harwich, Lincecum overcame a concussion suffered when he was hit in the head by a line drive to record seven saves, a league-best 0.69 ERA, 68 strikeouts in 391/3 innings and a .104 average against.

If that’s not enough, Lincecum points to a list of smaller pitchers who have made it to the majors, like Pedro Martinez, Greg Maddux, Tim Hudson and Billy Wagner.

But pro baseball personnel can be stubborn and focus on what has always been, such as taking a big pitcher over a smaller one. That’s why it seems the Kansas City Royals will go with 6-foot-6 North Carolina pitcher Andrew Miller with the top pick, and Houston’s Brad Lincoln and Tennessee’s Luke Hochevar could also be picked ahead of Lincecum.

Baseball America, which ranks Lincecum as having the draft’s best fastball, best breaking ball and being the player closest to the majors, predicts Lincecum will be selected with the No. 9 pick by Baltimore. That would mean the Seattle Mariners passing on Lincecum with the fifth pick.

Lincecum says he doesn’t really care when or by whom he’s picked. He’s been through it before. After being named the state player of the year in leading Liberty to the Class 3A state title, Lincecum was picked in the 48th round of the 2003 draft by the Chicago Cubs. Last year, as a draft-eligible sophomore, Lincecum was taken in the 41st round by Cleveland. He dropped in part because teams didn’t expect him to sign, and in part because he was seen as a two-pitch pitcher with control problems. But his time in the Cape Cod League changed that perception, as he developed a slider and changeup and showed he could start or relieve.

“I had the best outings of my life,” Lincecum said of his time in the Cape. “Everything just kind of came together.”

Lincecum seems to have convinced scouts that he will be able to handle some role in the majors. The question is, will he be a starter or reliever? Some people predict that Lincecum’s power arm could find itself in a major league bullpen by the end of the season, and that would be OK by him.

At this point, he’s just ready to have the draft process over with. He’ll spend Tuesday on the golf course with his dad and uncle, and hopes to use his signing bonus to upgrade his 1990 truck to a Mercedes.

“Most of my friends are like, ‘Oh my God Tim, you’re going to be going in the first round, isn’t that cool? You’re going to be a bajillionaire!’ But nothing’s guaranteed. It’s just surreal to think that I’m going to be in the first round.”

Lincecum is expected to be one of two state products to be selected in the first round, along with Jackson High outfielder Travis Snider. A third, Ferndale pitcher/outfielder Jake Locker, might have been a first- or second-round choice. But Locker, who Baseball America ranks as the No. 79 overall prospect and No. 2 high school athlete in the draft, told teams in May that he would honor his commitment to play quarterback at the University of Washington and would not sign a professional baseball contract. Locker will still be drafted, but will not likely be a top-round pick.

Two former Snohomish County players could also hear their names called on the first day. Kentucky junior first baseman Ryan Strieby, who played at Edmonds Community College, could got between the 10th and 15th round and Stanford shortstop Chris Minaker, an Edmonds-Woodway graduate, should also be selected. The fact that Minaker, the Cardinal’s top hitter, is a senior, will likely drop him into a later round.

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