The Giants saw their six-game win streak come to a close Monday, but in the big picture, the future of Tim Lincecum was the far more urgent matter.
Matt Kemp hit a two-run homer to lead the San Diego Padres to a 4-2 victory, as the home team stretched its own win streak to a season-high five in a row. The 409-foot bomb off Tim Hudson was his fourth homer in seven games and 10th overall.
The worse news came earlier in the day, when Lincecum was told to abstain from throwing for at least five days after receiving treatment for a degenerative hip condition. Because the problem has been known to limit and even cut short careers, it’s not out of the question that Lincecum may have thrown his final pitch in a Giants’ uniform.
Manager Bruce Bochy seemed confident that Lincecum’s future was not in jeopardy.
“This is normal with athletes,” Bochy said.
Since Lincecum had not signed a waiver allowing him to discuss his condition with reporters, neither he nor head athletic trainer Dave Groeschner addressed the media.
Bochy said Lincecum, 31, a two-time National League Cy Young Award winner, received cortisone shots in both hips and underwent an MRI examination during a visit to Dr. Thomas Byrd, a Nashville, Tenn., hip specialist. Lincecum has dealt with hip trouble since the end of last year.
Activated from the disabled list earlier in the day, Hudson became the latest starter to put a burden on the bullpen. He allowed three runs on five hits and four walks in four innings.
“I wasn’t quite as sharp as I would have liked to have been, especially with my fastball command,” said Hudson, who had been sidelined by a strained right shoulder. “Otherwise, I felt pretty good.
“It was definitely a bit of a grind out there. You know, I labored for sure for four innings. Hopefully, things an improve from a mechanics standpoint and a sharpness standpoint. I’m bound to get better there.”
Ryan Vogelsong and Yusmeiro Petit were called on to pitch two innings apiece.
“Sure, we’re gonna have to try to stay with [the starters] a little bit longer,” Bochy said. “We had a day off Thursday, so I think we’ll be fine. But it’s important that they start to give us some length.”
Bochy was non-committal when asked about Hudson’s spot in the rotation. Ryan Vogelsong has been effective out of the bullpen, but he’s a starter by trade.
“I’m not going to answer that right now,” Bochy said. “We’ll wait with the rotation we have right now and run with it.”
Lincecum has been on the disabled list since June 28 with a bruised right forearm that was struck by a line drive. He flew to Tennessee on Sunday and had an MRI exam the next day before rejoining the club in San Diego.
According to Bochy, Lincecum struggled with his pitching mechanics when he threw in the bullpen before the All-Star break. That, along with Lincecum’s uneven performance, indicated he would not be rejoining the starting rotation soon.
After posting a 4-2 record with a 2.08 ERA and working at least seven innings three times in his first eight starts, Lincecum went 3-2, 7.53 and never lasted past the sixth inning in his next seven outings. The four-time All-Star is 7-4 with a 4.13 ERA overall.
The news was better as it concerned Nori Aoki, who will begin an injury rehabilitation assignment Tuesday with Triple-A Sacramento. The outfielder could rejoin the major league club as soon as Friday. He took early batting practice at Petco Park and passed all of his on-field tests.
Aoki had a .317 batting average and was a contender for the All-Star Game when he was hit by a pitch against the Los Angeles Dodgers on June 20. That fractured Aoki’s right fibula and forced him onto the disabled list.
To make room for Hudson on the roster, relief pitcher Jean Machi was designated for assignment.
Last season Machi, 33, led the team with 71 appearances while posting a 7-1 record with a 2.58 ERA. This season, however, his command suffered and ERA ballooned to 5.14 in 33 games.
“I think the world of Mach,” Bochy said. “I told him that.”
Jeremy Affeldt pitched two scoreless innings Sunday night in his injury rehab stint with Triple-A Sacramento, but it was doubtful that the reliever would be activated during this series.
“We just want to make sure he’s ready,” Bochy said.