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Bochy tells struggling ace Lincecum to just relax

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — San Francisco Giants manager Bruce Bochy met with struggling ace Tim Lincecum on Thursday and had a simple message for the reigning two-time NL Cy Young winner: relax.

One day after Lincecum gave up six earned runs in 4 2-3 innings en route to his first loss of the season — the third straight rough outing by the Giants' right-hander — Bochy sought out the pitcher prior to San Francisco's series finale against the Washington Nationals and offered a few bits of advice.

"We talked about a lot of things," Bochy said. "When things aren't going so well for a player there's some times as a manager you do want to talk to them to see where they're at. I talked to Timmy and basically he's fine. He's a little frustrated. This guy has set the bar so high that he's tough on himself when he doesn't pitch like he's accustomed to."

Lincecum has been consistently dominant since his arrival in the majors, evidenced by the pair of Cy Young trophies he owns.

He was nearly flawless in April while winning his first four starts and appeared well on his way to a third straight NL Cy Young award. The Giants, who rewarded their ace with a $23 million, two-year contract in February, had no reason to think things would go south so quickly.

But with only one win over his last six starts, Lincecum's performance is beginning to raise questions. Radio shows spent much of Thursday morning debating his outing against the Nationals, and his recent lack of command was the primary topic during Bochy's pre-game meeting with reporters.

Nevermind his 5-1 record or the 3.00 ERA. The main theme: What's wrong with Timmy?

"That's what's tough on some of these players, especially great players," Bochy said. "The bar does get set so high that you expect too much out of yourself. Fans in general, us, that puts a little added pressure on the player, I think, and that's what you want to stay away from. I certainly don't want Timmy to put any added pressure on himself. He's had a great year. We're talking about a couple starts here, come on.

"Some of us, myself, who were average players, we're used to dealing with tough outings or at-bats. But when you set the bar so high it's a little tougher for him because he is so demanding of himself."

Reports surfaced this week that Lincecum has been pitching with a blister on his right hand, but both he and Bochy downplayed it following his poor outing against Washington.

"It's nothing," said Lincecum, who was unavailable for comment Thursday. "I go through them all the time. It had nothing to do with anything."

Bochy also shot down talk that Lincecum has lost velocity on his fastball, saying Lincecum has been focused more on his command.

More important in Bochy's eyes was Lincecum's lack of concentration with runners on base, something the pitcher acknowledged in the Giants clubhouse following his loss to the Nationals.

"I just let guys kind of go," he said. "It was almost like I wasn't looking at them. It's extremely frustrating for me, my team and obviously (catcher) Bengie (Molina)."

Bochy, who has met previously with Lincecum, is confident the pitcher will regain his form quickly.

"Whether it's mechanics or mental, everybody goes through it," Bochy said. "It's not one thing. Again, we're talking a couple starts here. Let's give this kid a break. He's pitched outstanding this year."