With some back problems, well, behind him, pitcher Tim Lincecum said he's ready to face the Dodgers today.
"I feel fine now," said Lincecum, the San Francisco Giants' ace and reigning National League Cy Young Award winner, who goes against Dodgers left-hander Randy Wolf in the series finale at Dodger Stadium.
The lithe, right-handed Lincecum (14-5) missed a start early this month because of back spasms. But he returned Monday to strike out 11 in the Giants' 9-1 win over the Colorado Rockies.
He leads the league in strikeouts (244) and earned-run average (2.30) among regular starters.
"I didn't feel any ill effects" in that game, said Lincecum, who Dodgers Manager Joe Torre said Saturday was the toughest starting pitcher the team faces.
"It was one of those things that passed," Lincecum said of the back problem, "but one of those things we're also going to monitor to make sure it doesn't come back again."
Lincecum, 25, is known for the way he arches his back in his windup and, when asked if he suffered back spasms before, said he had "some lower back problems when I was in high school."
"I pulled my lower back on one side and trying to overcome it and still play on it, but I ended up pulling the other side of my back," he said.
"That's why they took so much time," he said of his recent 10-day layoff. "They didn't want me putting pressure on something else and trying to make up for it with that."
Lincecum is 3-0 lifetime against the Dodgers with a 2.56 ERA. He said the Dodgers batters who trouble him most include Andre Ethier, who has "hurt us a lot" and Matt Kemp and Juan Pierre "because they always seem to be on base and they always seem to be taking the next base, and I've had trouble holding runners. Those are the kind of guys I worry about."
Torre said the Dodgers' goal isn't so much to beat Lincecum as to keep the score close and hope to beat the Giants' bullpen.
"We were able to do that two trips ago in San Francisco, though we lost in extra innings," Torre said. "But we held him at bay. That to me is the best way to go about it."
Billingsley in relief
Although his relief appearance Friday night against the Giants was troublesome, Chad Billingsley said he remained confident of regaining his form.
After being pulled from the starting rotation this weekend and sent to the bullpen for a few days, Billingsley gave up two runs -- including a home run to Aaron Rowand -- and four hits in 1 2/3 innings.
"Mechanically, [I'm] still working on things and still trying to figure something out, and the only way to figure it out is when you're out there," Billingsley said before Saturday's game. "That's all I can do."
Billingsley, who is scheduled to start again Wednesday against the Washington Nationals, said "it was different coming out of the bullpen; brought back some memories from '07 when I was in there. I was a little amped up."
Superstitious ballplayers are known for wearing the same cap or not changing socks day after day if they're on a winning streak.
But pitcher Clayton Kershaw said he's been wearing the same sweat-stained cap most of the season simply because "I just don't like breaking in new stuff like hats and gloves."