Mark Melancon

Johnny Cueto, Mark Melancon get work in against minor leaguers


Johnny Cueto, Mark Melancon get work in against minor leaguers

SCOTTSDALE — Members of the front office flocked to the organization’s minor league facility on Wednesday, and not just because the first day of games allowed a long look at prospects like Heliot Ramos and Jacob Gonzalez. Johnny Cueto and Mark Melancon were there for the day, and you could argue that they’re the two pitchers on staff who are most in need of turning the page from 2017. 

Cueto threw 70 pitches before handing the ball off to Melancon and giving him a fist pound. The closer threw 20 against minor leaguers. You can’t take anything away from stat lines when an All-Star is facing kids who have just started shaving, but both pitchers appeared pleased with the way they threw. While Melancon continues to push past some lingering discomfort, Cueto said he has no worries about his forearm or the blisters that hounded him last season. 

“Thank God, I don’t have any problems right now,” he said. 

Cueto will make one more start down here before taking the ball in Sacramento when the Giants play an exhibition at their affiliate upon returning home. After that, it’s the Dodgers. He said he has plenty of time to get his pitch count up, despite missing the start of camp because of the flu. 

Cueto topped out at 88 mph on Wednesday, but that’s normal for him this time of year. At times he appeared to be playing a light game of catch with Aramis Garcia, focusing on tightening up his changeup and breaking ball. 

“It felt really good out there,” he said. 

Melancon was pitching for the third time this spring. He sat 90-91 mph. 

--- Over on Instagram (pavlovicNBCS) there are a lot of photos and videos from minor league camp, including videos of Ramos and Gonzalez, and a cameo by a certain former Giant who once walked off the Cardinals.

With clock ticking, Mark Melancon makes 2018 spring debut


With clock ticking, Mark Melancon makes 2018 spring debut

SCOTTSDALE — Mark Melancon has 22 days to get fully ready to potentially pitch the ninth inning of the season opener. Will that be enough time?

“There hasn’t been one spring where I’ve felt I had enough time,” Melancon said Wednesday, smiling. 

This spring is different, though. Melancon underwent surgery last Sept. 12 to relieve compression in his right forearm, and while the results on the field Wednesday were encouraging, he admitted afterward that there is still some discomfort in his throwing arm. 

“It’s part of the process,” Melancon said. “It’s part of having surgery. We’re still progressing with my arm.”

Melancon said he was confident that he’ll be ready by opening day, and the Giants have expressed no concern publicly that their closer won’t be good to go. The clock is ticking, though, and Melancon has just one spring inning under his belt after pitching a 1-2-3 frame against the Padres. 

Melancon entered for the top of the fifth and faced the top of San Diego’s lineup. He got ahead of Manny Margot 0-2 before the pesky leadoff hitter bounced out to short. Raffy Lopez also went down 0-2 and grounded out harmlessly to first. Wil Myers hit a liner to left, but Hunter Pence tracked it down five feet in front of the track. 

“It was fun. It was nice to be out there,” Melancon said. “It’s what you spend all the offseason waiting to do and you finally get to do it. I’m always happy with a 1-2-3 inning.”

Bruce Bochy said he liked what he saw, and he noted that Melancon has been throwing to hitters during live BP sessions, so it’s not like he’s fully two weeks behind the rest of the pitchers. Bochy said that if Melancon needs to be further slow-played early in the year, he’s comfortable using Sam Dyson or Tony Watson in the ninth on occasion. 

Regardless of how Melancon fares the next three weeks, it has mostly been a positive spring for a bullpen that needs a bounceback. Josh Osich pitched before Melancon and had his fourth scoreless outing of the spring, and Watson followed with a good inning. Hunter Strickland, Dyson and Cory Gearrin have combined for seven scoreless innings.

Healthy Melancon and Smith expected to bolster Giants' bullpen


Healthy Melancon and Smith expected to bolster Giants' bullpen

ORLANDO — There were few positive sights down the stretch last season for the Giants, but Will Smith occasionally gave the coaching staff a reason to smile. The left-hander’s rehab from Tommy John surgery in late March went so smoothly that he was able to play aggressive games of catch at AT&T Park before going home for the winter. 

The Giants believe Smith will be ready for opening day, barring a setback in spring training, and he should be fully back to his old self by the All-Star break, allowing Bruce Bochy to use him multiple days in a row or for multiple innings. They are even more confident that closer Mark Melancon, who had a minor procedure on his pitching arm, will be ready when pitchers and catchers report to Scottsdale the second week of February. 

In an offseason when there are more holes to fill than answers, those developments could prove crucial. The confidence in Smith and Melancon has allowed general manager Bobby Evans to focus on the lineup here at the Swan and Dolphin Resort. 

“We’re still looking at the bullpen as an area we would like to strengthen, but we don’t necessarily have that as our focal point at this stage of the offseason,” Evans said. 

The bullpen has been an issue for two years, but the Giants feel it will be much better in 2018. Melancon will serve as closer, with Sam Dyson — a 2017 surprise — and Smith giving Bochy two veterans in the eighth inning. If all three find their normal form, it's a reliable trio. The manager would love another lefty addition, but if nothing of significance is done, the Giants are confident that Ty Blach can be a weapon as a reliever. Hunter Strickland comes up in trade rumors but is likely to be back, and Cory Gearrin was tendered a contract last month after a solid season. Kyle Crick showed flashes of dominance as a rookie and there’s still hope that Derek Law — once the future closer — will again become a force. 

Once the dust settles and relievers start signing shorter-term deals, the Giants expect to add to the mix, but they also could get help from a couple of unlikely areas. They expect to use their second pick in the Rule 5 Draft on Thursday and they have primarily been focused on hard-throwing relievers who were left off 40-man rosters elsewhere. Any player chosen would have to spend the year on the active roster to remain a Giant, but that’s easier to do in the bullpen, and other teams have pulled it off in recent years.

Another 2018 option could be top pitching prospect Tyler Beede. Evans said he could break in as a reliever, although the preference remains giving him a shot to win a rotation spot. That could happen as early as the spring. 

“Our discussions internally see him as very close to being ready,” Evans said.