San Francisco Giants Closer Mark Melancon made another step in his recovery from forearm surgery. On Wednesday he completed one uneventful inning in his Spring Training debut.
Good news, right? Well, maybe.
The return of Mark Melancon was supposed to be a joyous occasion. He was going to come in and pitch effectively like we all dreamed.
In Wednesday’s game, Melancon came in and did just that. The dream came true. However, it was some of his postgame comments that gave cause for concern.
Melancon had pronator surgery in September of 2017, and is still recovering. This is not a common procedure, but the recovery can take three-to-four months. As a result, Bruce Bochy has been slow-playing Melancon, or just about any veteran player on this team.
This does not mean Melancon has not been pitching. He has been pitching, but exclusively in bullpen sessions. His arm is getting a workout, but he is not getting that game experience he needs to prepare for the season. Ideally, Melancon would need about seven or eight innings to be ready for the season.
By getting into a game on Wednesday, Melancon still has about three weeks to build arm strength and improve repetition. That is plenty of time for a reliever, but it was his comments after the game that gave cause for concern.
According to Chris Haft of MLB.com, Melancon appeared to be cautious in how his arm felt. Melancon went on to say, “I think it’s part of having surgery. Going through rust. That’s why I say we’re still progressing. It’s in motion.”
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This is not necessarily the ringing endorsement from a guy who is expected to be the closer. If he is not able to close games, then it disrupts the current dynamic of the bullpen. However, at least he is being honest with his arm, and not trying to push himself through an injury.
Similar to Madison Bumgarner, Melancon has been a physical stalwart for much of his career. He does not sustain injuries often. His comments and apparent demeanor may give cause for concern, but it may not be an issue at all.
For a player who has rarely been injured in his career, there is a development curve. Initial discomfort may be a necessary step in the road to recovery, especially when so few pitchers have experienced a similar procedure.
However, it may become a concern soon. If Melancon is not able to return to game action soon, it could put his Opening Day in jeopardy. The test for his arm will not only be an innings goal, but his ability to pitch on back-to-back days as well. He will likely need to do the latter at least once by the end of Spring Training.
Melancon’s comments could be a red flag. Or, the soreness he was experiencing could be a common side effect following pronator surgery. It is difficult to determine, and even he does not sound like he knows whether the discomfort is serious, or just part of the process.
The next few days will be an indicator as to how healthy he actually is, and if he can actually be ready for the season to start. Only time will tell, but this is a story to follow as the spring progresses.