PITTSBURGH -- This trip is a homecoming for Mark Melancon, who was a three-time All-Star with the Pirates and had a strong half-season with the Nationals before signing with the Giants.
For the first time in three years, perhaps Melancon can enjoy taking the mound here. He is healthy and throwing as well as he has since signing that deal, posting nine scoreless appearances to start the season. He has not returned as the closer, however.
Melancon is fourth or fifth on the bullpen depth chart, and with right-handers Sam Dyson and Reyes Moronta ahead of him in the late innings most times, many of the veteran's early-season outings will be multiple innings. That's something Melancon had success with last season, and he has carried that over.
"He's made himself even more versatile, which is invaluable for us," manager Bruce Bochy said Friday.
That role could change, though. Bochy said he could see Melancon getting save opportunities this season. The Giants waited until Opening Day to name Will Smith their closer, in part because Bochy felt he had multiple good options.
"It would be great if that were to work out because it could free up Will Smith, but there obviously was some concern about (Melancon's) health after what he went through last year," Bochy said.
Melancon is healthy now, and giving him a few ninth-inning opportunities could allow Bochy to use Smith against a tough lefty in the eighth if he already has used Tony Watson. There's another factor here, too, one that club employees wouldn't ever want to mention out loud.
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Smith figures to be one of the better relievers available before the July 31 deadline and Watson and Dyson also could be attractive to other teams. Melancon's contract is harder to move and he has a year remaining. The Giants could look up after the deadline and determine that Melancon and Moronta are their two options.