Right-hander Mark Melancon’s first outing of the Cactus League did not deliver good results on Friday afternoon, a shaky start to the spring for a reliever looking to bounce back from a rough debut season with the Diamondbacks.
Melancon gave up three runs on six hits, striking out two, in an inning against the Seattle Mariners at Salt River Fields. In fairness three of the hits he allowed came on softly hit balls, but the others did not, including a home run to right by the Mariners’ Mike Ford.
With more than 3 1/2 weeks to go before Opening Day, Melancon should have plenty of outings to get himself on track. Still, given what he went through last year — he was brought in to provide stability to the bullpen but wound up struggling and losing the closer’s job — there is no denying the Diamondbacks would have preferred to see an easier inning.
“Results weren’t good,” Melancon said. “A lot of soft contact, which was good, but the scoreboard didn’t look good.”
Soft contact also was an issue for Melancon last year. He struggled to miss bats and had trouble recording strikeouts when he most needed them. In 62 games, he posted a 4.66 ERA, allowing 63 hits with 21 walks in 56 innings, striking out just 35.
The Diamondbacks gave him a two-year, $14 million deal in December 2021.
On Friday, Melancon averaged 88.6 mph with his cutter, down from his average of 90.9 mph last season. That was down a tick from his 92 mph average in 2021. Of course, it is not unusual for veterans to gradually build their velocity throughout spring training.
Manager Torey Lovullo did not try to sugarcoat the outing, but he also gave Melancon plenty of leash given his standing as a veteran of 14 seasons.
“We’ll evaluate the stuff and evaluate him, but we’re not going to evaluate him like he’s a rookie trying to make the team,” Lovullo said. “We know that he’s been through some battles and he’s going to find a way to get his work in and get to where he needs to get to.”
Melancon worked in the offseason to make tweaks to his delivery, trying to shorten his arm swing and get down the mound more quickly. He said he felt better in the bullpen with those changes than he did once the game started.
“Results always mean something,” Melancon said. “I’m not going to lose sleep over it tonight, but I also don’t want to give up three runs, no matter if it’s the middle of December.”
Melancon entered the spring with what appeared to be a solid hold on a roster spot. He is among a handful of relievers competing for various roles in the bullpen, including the closer’s job.
Outfielder Kyle Lewis (legs) is scheduled to make his first start of the spring on Sunday in Goodyear, Lovullo said. Lewis will serve as the designated hitter.
Mariners 6, Diamondbacks 3
At Salt River Fields
At the plate: LF Lourdes Gurriel Jr. had a pair of hits, including a run-scoring double to right field in the fifth inning. He is 4 for 9 (.444) with a double, a homer, two RBIs and three walks so far this spring. 1B Christian Walker also had a two-hit day with a double. 3B Josh Rojas drew a pair of walks. DH Evan Longoria went 0 for 3 with three strikeouts. He is 0 for 8 with six strikeouts in three Cactus League games. “He missed four days with the flu (last week) and those are important timing days with some live pitching,” manager Torey Lovullo said. “He’s really getting caught up right here on the baseball field.”
On the mound: RHP Merrill Kelly gave up one run in 2 1/3 innings, allowing two hits, walking two and striking out two. Kelly did not speak with reporters, saying through a team spokesman that he was not feeling well. Lovullo provided more detail, adding that Kelly was fatigued and possibly dehydrated. “At the end of the day, he was extremely tired,” Lovullo said. The outing was Kelly’s first in the Cactus League this season and will be his last for at least some time; he is scheduled to leave camp in the coming days to join Team USA as it prepares for the World Baseball Classic.
Extra bases: RF Dominic Canzone hit a pair of balls hard but had nothing to show for it. He had a hit taken away in the second by a diving stop from Mariners 2B Kean Wong, then lined into an inning-ending double play in the fifth. The Diamondbacks had three pitch clock violations, all occurring at the beginning of innings. “We can’t have that,” Lovullo said.
Saturday’s games: Diamondbacks (ss) RHP Brandon Pfaadt vs. Padres RHP Reiss Knehr, 1:10 p.m., Salt River Fields; Diamondbacks (ss) RHP Slade Cecconi vs. Giants LHP Alex Wood, 1:05 p.m., Scottsdale Stadium.