Giants

Former Giants catcher returns to organization on minor league deal

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USATSI

Former Giants catcher returns to organization on minor league deal

SAN FRANCISCO — After spending two years destroying his former team, Hector Sanchez is returning to the organization. 

The Giants and Sanchez have agreed to terms on a minor league deal, general manager Bobby Evans confirmed. Sanchez spent the first five seasons of his big league career in San Francisco before stints with the Padres and White Sox. 

In two years with the Padres, Sanchez got 36 at-bats against the Giants and hit five homers and drove in 14 runs. His success became an odd running subplot of the rough 2017 Giants season, but Sanchez — who turned 28 in November — hit just .219 for the Padres last season. Half of his eight homers came with the Giants. 

Sanchez was Buster Posey’s primary backup for three seasons. He returns to an organization that is set at the big league level with Posey and Nick Hundley, but does not have much minor league catching depth. It would appear that Sanchez and Trevor Brown are the two catchers currently set to start the season with Triple-A Sacramento. Aramis Garcia, the organization's top catching prospect, finished last season in Double-A. 

Melancon's role upon return from DL should be similar to end of last season

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AP

Melancon's role upon return from DL should be similar to end of last season

HOUSTON — For a player who was such a high-profile addition two years ago, Mark Melancon has slipped under the radar over the past two months. His arm discomfort was quickly overshadowed by Madison Bumgarner’s pinky fracture, and while Melancon made progress, Johnny Cueto made a trip to Dr. James Andrews. 

But Melancon should be the first of the injured pitchers to return. He will start a rehab assignment tonight with the Sacramento River Cats, and if all goes well, Melancon should be back on the big league roster in two weeks. But, what will the role be for a player who was not long ago given $62 million to close games?

“It will probably be like last year (when he returned from injury), earlier innings and we’ll see where he’s at and how he’s feeling and how he’s throwing,” manager Bruce Bochy said over the weekend. “We’ll let him get settled in and go that way. I don’t want to put added pressure on him as soon as he gets back.”

When Melancon returned from a six-week DL stint last year, he never pitched the ninth. He saw time in the seventh and then the eighth before shutting it down for surgery that didn’t solve his pronator issues. The Giants went into the spring with Melancon set for the closer role, but he was shut down over the final week and Hunter Strickland took over. He has a 2.18 ERA and nine saves in 11 opportunities. Tony Watson, who has closed in the past, has a 2.14 ERA, and Sam Dyson (last year’s fill-in) has also pitched well.

It’s a good problem to have. If the Giants can get anything from Melancon, they’ll be adding another quality arm to a bullpen that has been strong at the back end. If Melancon throws so well that he’s an option to close once again, Bochy will deal with it. For now, the hurdle is not performance. It’s durability. 

One of Strickland’s strengths is his ability to take the ball multiple days in a row, and twice already this season he has pitched three consecutive games. Bochy needs a closer who is available just about every day, and Melancon had to be shut down in the spring after going back-to-back for the first time. The plan is for him to pitch in back-to-back games at least once during the rehab assignment. 

“It’s going to take some time to get there,” Bochy said. “With our bullpen situation, the back end has been doing a really nice job. We’ll mix him in there and he’ll be a big part of it, too. It allows you to rest guys and keep them fresh and he’ll be a big part of it.”

Brandon Belt earns NL Player of the Week honors

Brandon Belt earns NL Player of the Week honors

HOUSTON -- Another homer-filled stretch earned some national recognition for Brandon Belt.

The first baseman was named the National League's Player of the Week after hitting five homers in seven games. Belt had a .444/.500/.1.074 slash line, eight runs and 11 RBI. He led the NL in homers, runs and total bases (29).

Belt also won the award in August of 2013. He's the first Giant to do it since Jeff Samardzija in September of 2017.

Through the season's first two months, Belt has been the best first baseman in the National League. He looks headed for an All-Star appearance, and at the moment is an MVP candidate for a team that's .500 despite a slew of injuries.