Source: Chris Heston returns to Giants


Source: Chris Heston returns to Giants

SAN FRANCISCO — A familiar face could help provide starting pitching depth for the Giants next season.

Right-hander Chris Heston has signed a minor league deal with the organization, per a source, returning three years after his breakthrough season in orange and black. Heston posted a 3.95 ERA in 31 starts in 2015 and threw a no-hitter at Citi Field, but he was traded to the Seattle Mariners after the 2016 season.

The Giants tried to turn Heston into a reliever after his big rookie year, but an oblique strain cost him much of 2016.  The 29-year-old appeared in two games for the Mariners and one for the Twins last year, while also pitching in the minors for the Dodgers organization. He threw a scoreless inning against the Giants on June 11 at AT&T Park. 

Heston dealt with a shoulder issue last season but he’s said to be back to full health, and he returns to an organization that is short on pitching depth. After trading Matt Moore to clear salary, the Giants are counting on Chris Stratton and Ty Blach to fill out the back of the rotation, with prospects Tyler Beede and Andrew Suarez behind them on the depth chart. Beyond the latter two, there are few options at the Triple-A level. 

POLL: Giants Memorable Moments -- Belt's 18th inning HR against Nats vs Halicki's no-hitter in 1975


POLL: Giants Memorable Moments -- Belt's 18th inning HR against Nats vs Halicki's no-hitter in 1975

PROGRAMMING NOTE: NBC Sports Bay Area is looking back at the Giants' 60 Memorable Moments since the franchise moved from New York to San Francisco. Tune into Pregame Live at 4:30pm to see the next two moments you can vote on! Then, after the Giants and Astros conclude, tune into Postgame Live to see which moment will move on to the next round! Make your vote count!

1. Brandon Belt's 18th inning homer against the Nationals in 2014 NLDS (Four-time winner -- Defeated Dave Dravecky's comeback after cancer in 1989)

(From Alex Pavlovic)
By the end of an 18-inning win over the Nationals in Game 2 of the 2014 NLDS, the Giants were drained in every way. It would be understandable if some of them have few solid memories of the six-hour, 23-minute marathon game, but Brandon Belt will never forget the details. His solo shot off Tanner Roark in the top of the 18th was the difference in a 2-1 win. Four years later, the moment is still fresh in his mind, from his preparation for the at-bat to the emphatic bat drop: 

(From Brandon Belt)
"I remember chugging a Red Bull. It was late into the night and that's tough, it's mentally draining and physically draining to be in a game like that, where you're giving everything you've got to win a baseball game. I was drained at that moment to say the least. I remember chugging a Red Bull and going out there and thinking, 'I'm just going to try and get on base and see what happens.' I remember just not trying to do too much and he gave me a pitch that I could handle, that was kind of in my happy zone. It felt like one of the first home runs I ever hit. It's like you're in Little League and you hit a home run and it's like you're in a dream and it's not real life -- it was kind of the same way. 

"We had just played so long and it was such a big moment in the game, and the fact that I was able to come through and help us win with such a big hit, it was surreal to me. I felt like I was floating around the bases. I think (the bat drop) was relief, more than anything. When I do that I don't really know I do it. It was really just relief. The way the game was going, we had to assume it was over after that. The bullpen had done so well and everyone was so tired. It was going to be tough for (the Nationals) to come back after that.

"We were just ready to go home. We had a long flight after that. We just put so much effort into it and all the guys did so great. Pablo came up with a big hit in the ninth inning and Petit throwing (six shutout) innings. For me, that was the pivotal game of that entire playoffs. We were playing the best team in the NL and to be able to come home up 2-0 was huge."


2. Ed Halicki's no-hitter in 1975

(From Alex Pavlovic)

Over the past decade, AT&T Park has hosted two no-hitters and a perfect game. But you have to go pretty far back in the record books to find the last no-hitter in San Francisco before Jonathan Sanchez's in 2009.

On August 24, 1975, Ed Halicki no-hit the New York Mets at Candlestick Park. Halicki, just 24 at the time, struck out 10 and issued a pair of walks in a 6-0 win in the second game of a doubleheader. Halicki retired 12 straight to open the game before Rusty Staub reached on an error. He walked a batter in the sixth and another in the ninth, but when Wayne Garrett grounded out to first, he had a 27th out and the first no-hitter by a Giant since Gaylord Perry in 1968.

Halicki told the New York Times he started to get serious about the bid in the eighth. 

"I thought, I'm this close, I'll probably never get another chance," Halicki said, according to Leonard Koppett's story. "So I just made up my mind to throw as hard as I could, and if someone was going to break it up, he'd do it off my best stuff, not something trying to be cute. I wasn't particularly rational at that point."


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


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.”