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Bullpen duty revives San Francisco starter Lincecum

DETROIT -- San Francisco pitcher Tim Lincecum has turned the worst season of his six-year Major League Baseball career around by accepting a relief role, finding his once-magical form in the World Series.

The long-haired right-hander pitched two 1/3 scoreless innings with three strikeouts after replacing starter Ryan Vogelsong in the sixth inning of Saturday's 2-0 victory over host Detroit.

The Giants, seeking their second title in three seasons, took a 3-0 lead in the best-of-seven final with game four on Sunday. No team has ever rallied from such a deficit to win the World Series.

Star hurler Lincecum, 28, accepted being demoted from the starting rotation of pitchers into a reserve role for the playoffs after a miserable season and has responded by allowing one run on three hits with 17 strikeouts over 13 innings.

“Just being able to contribute is the biggest thing for me,” Lincecum said. “That's my mindset. I'm just going to be out there as a safety net kind of thing.

“If I can pick up innings here and there in these games, that's what I'm there to do. I'm just fortunate I've been able to come out on the top side.”

Lincecum was the 2008 and 2009 Cy Young Award winner as the best pitcher in the National League and in 2010 won the first and last games of the World Series in San Francisco's five-game triumph over Texas.

“The second we got that ring, it's like that taste for the next ring is just sitting right in your mouth the whole time,” Lincecum said.

“That sounds terrible. Let me rephrase that. It just leaves you wanting it even more and if that means being in the bullpen, I really don't care. I just want to win.”

In the two seasons since his World Series glory, his 29 total losses are the second most by a regular-season regular starter. Lincecum was 10-15 this year and allowed more than five runs a game, walking 90 batters and surrendering 23 homers. He gave up a major-league-high 28 first-inning runs this season.

“I know this season I didn't do exactly what I wanted to do,” Lincecum said. “So to go out there and just be able to do something for the team, whether that's for two innings or an inning or four innings, that's really my goal.”

“He has been throwing the ball great,” Vogelsong said. “But what sticks out the most to me, when the lights come on in the biggest stage, he has showed everybody what he is truly about and he has thrown the ball unbelievable this whole post-season out of the bullpen.

“You have got to tip your hat to him. He could have been upset about going to the bullpen and not one second did you ever see that from him. He just went down there and came out firing and he has been really impressive.”

Lincecum has had to adjust to short-notice trips to the mound instead of days to prepare for a start.

“You're just sitting waiting for your name to be called and the second that happens you are just riding on straight adrenaline,” he said.

Giants manager Bruce Bochy was also full of praise.

“We felt he was the best of the five starters to help us out of the bullpen with how fast he gets loose and also how resilient he is,” Bochy said.

“It just made sense to put Timmy there and help us out those middle innings. He has done an incredible job. He has relished the role. That's the biggest part of it — he accepted it. That's why I think he's having success.”

Bochy also made it clear that Lincecum is destined to return to the starting rotation next season, maybe after helping the Giants win another crown.

“He's an incredible talent and a great starter,” Bochy said. “When you have the talent he has, it's nice to have the ability to go either way. But I assure you, he's going to be in the rotation next year.”

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