Texas Rangers

Have Rangers missed Lincecum even though they've never had him?

The next stop on Tim Lincecum's road back to the major leagues will be Triple A Round Rock on Monday.
The next stop on Tim Lincecum's road back to the major leagues will be Triple A Round Rock on Monday. jwilson@star-telegram.com

Tim Lincecum is headed to Triple A Round Rock on Monday to begin his long-awaited rehab assignment, and it will be a long one.

The right-hander is on the 60-day disabled list, so he can't be activated until May 28. He didn't have a spring training after signing in early March and then developing a blister after only a couple of weeks.

But all is well now, from his finger to his delivery to his need to compete.

He is still a reliever, and the theory was that he could pitch multiple innings in relief, in winning situations, late in games and maybe even get some save opportunities.

Maybe it's far-fetched to say the Texas Rangers miss something that they've never even had, but it really sounds like they miss him.

"I think any speculation, whether it was ours or external, on what role he could play was just that," general manager Jon Daniels said last week in Cleveland. "With Tim, we took a calculated gamble there. He hasn't pitched in the last year. We're putting him in a new role.

"We liked some of the things we saw physically, but we said from Day 1 this was not based on recent track record. This was based on what he's done and how his body looked over the winter."

OK, but the Rangers are missing the reliever Lincecum could be, a reliable multi-innings reliever. Left-hander Alex Claudio was expected to be that but hasn't. Right-hander Matt Bush was expected to be that, but he's in Triple A Round Rock.

Take the 6-5 loss Saturday to the Boston Red Sox. If Lincecum were available, perhaps he navigates the seventh inning without any harm and then bridges the eighth to closer Keone Kela.

Lincecum likely wouldn't be used to match up against specific hitters, as Jose Leclerc was to open the inning and as Claudio arguably should have been once the Red Sox's right-handed heart of the order came up.

Lincecum is missing the chance just to get into those situations.

"When you have a front-row seat to see everything, it’s harder when you can’t do something about it, especially when you’re in a place to be able to," Lincecum said. "We’ve all dealt with nicks and knacks and things like that, so when the blister is what’s holding you back, it’s kind of like, 'Really?'"

Lincecum will be stretched out to three innings, manager Jeff Banister said. Lincecum initially will pitch every other day until he starts logging more pitches and will need more rest.

The slower pace, the result of being placed on the 60-day disabled list, has helped him iron out his delivery. That process will continue while on assignment.

"I think I’ve worked with timings of leg lifts and arm dips and stuff like that," he said. "I think you try to refine things. This was that time, and I’m still going to be doing that during these games, but I feel like I’m in a good place."