The mystery surrounding Tim Lincecum's availability for Opening Day was solved Tuesday morning after he threw live batting practice.
He might be at Globe Life Park on March 29, but he won't be on the Texas Rangers' roster.
"It doesn't look like it," Lincecum said.
"I don't envision it," pitching coach Doug Brocail said.
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Lincecum's pitching on a back field at the Surprise Recreation Campus had nothing to do with Brocail's assessment. He liked what he saw from the right-hander, who moved his fastball up and down, something that will make his split-fingered fastball even more effective.
"That splitty's nasty," Brocail said.
But Lincecum hasn't pitched in a game this spring, or in the past 18 months. He has been pitching for nearly half of that time, but almost exclusively indoors on an artificial mound. He needs innings, maybe as many as seven, on a dirt mound before he will be ready for major-league duty.
And that's fine by him and the Rangers, who were bracing for the possibility of a season-opening stint on the 10-day disabled list when his one-year deal became official March 7. Neither wanted to force Opening Day, which is just one game of 162, after his arrival to camp was delayed by the death of his older brother.
The key thing is that Lincecum is making progress, good progress.
"I was happy with the amount of work I got in," the right-hander said. "I think I've still got some things I need to refine. I wasn't extremely happy with today, but I was happy with the work."
With a grasp on his status to open the season, the Rangers can eliminate one possibility for their bullpen to start 2018.
With the opener fewer than 10 days away, they still don't have a concrete plan for their pitching staff. Five starters or six? Seven relievers or eight? And, as a result, three bench players or four?
"That is a big decision for us," manager Jeff Banister said. "I like the prospects of where we're at with the options. I think we've got some good options. Experience-wise, the set of pitchers that have been here previously that will be there in our bullpen have really grown, and I think they're a lot better. They're a lot more comfortable with what they can do.
"We're better in that regard, and then some of the options we have around the rest guys give us the opportunity to have, I believe, a good bullpen."
The six-man rotation idea is down to a five-plus-one, but even that is fading with extra days off on the schedule this season and with the strong spring Mike Minor is having. Martin Perez (broken right elbow) also appears ready to start the season on the active roster.
Some reliever on the staff will be dropped into the rotation on occasion. The leading candidate for that job is right-hander Jesse Chavez, who has an excellent career track record working multiple innings in relief and has started at least 20 games in three of the past four seasons.
If he is going to serve as the sixth starter only infrequently, a case can be made for the Rangers going with seven relievers. But a case can be made for going with eight, which would doom the roster chances for outfielder Carlos Tocci and Destin Hood.
But which eight? Or seven?
Righties Chris Martin, Keone Kela and Tony Barnette entered camp as perceived shoo-ins, but the Rangers have concerns with the health of Kela (shoulder) and Barnette (back).
Matt Bush is a reliever again. He makes six. Jose Leclerc has been a star of camp, along with Kevin Jepsen. There's eight, and Chavez would make nine.
The Rangers want to keep Jepsen, but the end-of-spring numbers game could get him.
"We've had some internal discussion," Banister said. We've had some discussion with some of the players, but I'll keep that in-house for now."
Lincecum could eventually become the closer, and he is working with a late-innings role in mind. He needs more repetition, which he will get Friday with his third live BP. He doesn't have an idea of innings he wants to log, but a confidence in what he is seeing when he does face hitters.
He's trying to not overdo things while also trying to ensure that he's seeing enough hitters. Plus, he's trying to get his command, especially with his fastball, to the point where he can hit any spot.
"From a standpoint of seeing what they're thinking what I'm trying to accomplish as a late-inning guy, they said the stuff is good," Lincecum said. "It's my consistency and being able to hit those spots more consistently. I think was pretty erratic for the most part. Those are things you want to avoid of you're a late-inning guy."
On March 29, though, he will be a no-innings guy. At least the Rangers know that. Now, they can't try to figure out how the rest of their pitching staff will shake out.
"We've got time," Banister said.