The Diamondbacks expect to be without veteran reliever Mark Melancon to open the season because of a shoulder injury, general manager Mike Hazen said this evening (relayed by Steve Gilbert of MLB.com). The issue’s severity isn’t clear but apparently will send him to the injured list at the start of the year.
It’s an unfortunate beginning to the four-time All-Star’s hope for a bounceback season. Melancon had a tough opening campaign in the desert. Signed to a two-year free agent deal over the 2021-22 offseason, the righty posted a 4.66 ERA through 56 innings. It was his worst run prevention mark in a decade, while his 14.2% strikeout rate was his lowest since his abbreviated rookie season in 2009. His 44.1% grounder percentage was the worst of his career. The D-Backs pulled Melancon from the closing role towards the tail end of the season.
Rough 2022 campaign aside, Melancon’s track record offered some hope he could improve his results this year. He’d allowed fewer than four earned runs per nine innings in each of the previous four seasons, including consecutive sub-3.00 showings in 2020-21. Melancon doesn’t sport the high-octane, overpowering arsenal of most elite relievers. Yet he’d consistently been successful keeping runs off the board for over a decade on the strength of pristine control and strong ground-ball numbers.
The Diamondbacks made a handful of additions to their bullpen over the winter. Miguel Castro, Scott McGough and Andrew Chafin all came aboard on low-cost free agent deals. Arizona also nabbed Cole Sulser off waivers from Miami. That group and in-house options like Kevin Ginkel and Joe Mantiply give skipper Torey Lovullo a little more flexibility in the late innings than he’s had in recent seasons.
Lovullo had already suggested he was prepared to take a closer by committee approach early in the year. Melancon, who has saved 262 MLB games in his career, could factor into that mix at some point. He’ll now first have to get healthy, with little public clarity about his overall recovery timeline.
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