ST. LOUIS -- It never occurred. Moreover, it never truly came close to occurring, though media reports claimed that the potential for this event was real.
"It" was the unthinkable: The Giants trading Tim Lincecum to the Toronto Blue Jays for outfielder Alex Rios during the 2007 Winter Meetings. On Tuesday, Lincecum will face Toronto for the first time since an Interleague game during his '07 rookie season. What if he were appearing at AT&T Park as a visiting player?
"I'm happy it didn't happen," said Lincecum, who has made the most of his Giants tenure by compiling an 82-61 record, winning two National League Cy Young Awards and helping San Francisco capture two World Series.
Though some inexperienced players tend to become upset when they hear their name in trade discussions, Lincecum insisted the rumors didn't bother him.
"It didn't have any great significance," Lincecum said. "I didn't read into it too much or think too much about it. For me, it might have been one of those things where it was at the start of my career. ... It was possible that a team could have me so they could trade me."
The rationale behind the proposal was simple. The Giants desperately needed offense, and many industry experts viewed Rios as a budding Albert Pujols after he hit .297 with 24 homers and 85 RBIs in '07 at age 26. But to get a hitter of Rios' apparent skill, any team would have had to part with a prospect like Lincecum, who thrilled Giants fans as a rookie by finishing 7-5 with 150 strikeouts in 146 1/3 innings spanning 24 starts.
The Giants soon declared that Lincecum and Matt Cain would not be traded under any circumstances. But until then, Lincecum said, "Being young, I hadn't established anything."
Bochy: Lincecum remaining in rotation
ST. LOUIS -- The season's drama became somewhat intriguing for the Giants on Sunday, when manager Bruce Bochy announced before the game that right-hander Tim Lincecum would be in the bullpen for the second straight day.
Bochy emphasized that Lincecum was not being removed from the starting rotation, despite his struggles (3-5, 5.12 ERA in 11 starts). Using Lincecum in relief, Bochy said, would be a "Plan C," even with long reliever Chad Gaudin leaving the bullpen to start the finale vs. the Cardinals. Bochy explained that assigning Lincecum and Barry Zito to the bullpen for the day would give the Giants adequate "coverage" if Gaudin couldn't go deep into the game.
At least that was the short-term plan. CSNBayArea.com quoted a team source as saying that Lincecum would be moved to the bullpen "in a heartbeat" if the team had a suitable replacement for him in the rotation.
Lincecum has been regarded as a potentially effective reliever, particularly since last postseason. In five appearances, he yielded just one run and three hits in 13 innings while walking two and striking out 17.
Until the situation changes -- if it ever does -- Lincecum will continue to prepare for starting. The right-hander, whose next assignment is Tuesday night's opener of a two-game series against Toronto at AT&T Park, insisted that he wouldn't deviate from his starter's routine.
Lincecum admitted that working in relief "has been in the back of my mind -- the very back," Lincecum said. "You go with whatever the team calls for, especially if things aren't going well as a starter."
An underlying factor complicating matters is that Lincecum, who turns 29 on June 15, will be eligible for free agency following this season. His earning potential would seem to be highest as a starter, but he might have to consider a change if he's more effective as a reliever.
As it turned out, the Giants used only regular relievers Jeremy Affeldt and Sergio Romo to close out their 4-2 triumph over St. Louis.
Pagan available to pinch-hit in finale vs. Cards
ST. LOUIS -- Though Angel Pagan's strained left hamstring kept him out of the Giants' lineup for the eighth consecutive game on Sunday, manager Bruce Bochy pronounced the switch-hitting center fielder eligible to pinch-hit in the series finale against the St. Louis Cardinals.
Pagan expressed hope that he would be able to return to the lineup Tuesday, when the Giants face Toronto after Monday's scheduled off-day, and Bochy echoed that sentiment.
"Today was a good day for me. I felt much better," said Pagan, who tested his leg by sprinting a few times along the outer circumference of the infield dirt.
That simulated running from first base to third, without the sharp turns. Noting that he'll engage in a complete workout Monday that will include baseball-related activities, Pagan added, "If I feel like I can come in the next day to play, I'll be in the lineup."
Said Bochy, "He should be a go for Tuesday."
Assigning Pagan retroactively to the 15-day disabled list no longer appears to be a consideration for the Giants.
"It's not up to me," Pagan said. "But I'd rather not be on the DL."
Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.