Melancon back from dead arm issues

The Associated Press

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Big league pitchers often talk about a “dead arm” period, when the ball does not seem to feel right or act properly.

San Francisco closer Mark Melancon pitched last year with the real thing — dead tissue in a forearm muscle, discovered only during a season-ending surgical procedure Sept. 12.

When doctors began a procedure designed to allow the muscle to “breathe,” they found something they did not expect.

“It was actually dying off,” Melancon said.

“It had turned gray. When they went in, they literally saw it. The muscle was dying from being restricted. The doctor said he hadn’t seen that too much. He said he had seen it, but not there, and not often. Very rare. It was definitely a surprise. I know he was shocked,” he said.

Melancon, who said he had been felt similar restriction off and on at various points of the season since 2012, also was taken aback.

While the surgery was considered a success, Melancon and the Giants can only hope the surgery will be enough to help him return to the All-Star form that led him to 98 saves and two NL All-Star teams with Pittsburgh in 2015-16.

“I think they have done all that they can do,” Melancon said.

“Who knows if it flares up again? Hopefully that muscle comes back pink, reddish, healthy again. The doctor doesn’t know it if will or not. We’ve done all the we can do. The rest, we’ll see,” he said.

Melancon was one of the best closers in the game from 2014-16, recording 131 saves in 141 opportunities with a 1.93 ERA with Pittsburgh and Washington, joining the Nationals at the 2016 trade deadline.

That success earned him a four-year, $62 million contract in the 2016 winter of the closers, when Kenley Jansen and Aroldis Chapman also were on the market.

Last season did not start well, when Melancon failed to hold a lead in a loss at Arizona on opened day, and his year in a way mirrored the Giants woes as they fell to 64-98, tied with Detroit for the fewest wins in the majors.

Melancon, who finished 1-2 with 11 saves and a 4.50 ERA in 32 appearances, did not pitch for six weeks around the All-Star Game. He then was shut down for the season the first week of September.

“I’d always dealt with it, but last year it was different,” said Melancon, who will turn 34 in March.

“It bothered me the whole year, where in years past it never blossomed fully. It would come a couple of weeks, maybe a month, during every season since 2012. But I could get through it, get over it,” he said.


n Pitcher Chris Tillman and the Baltimore Orioles finalized a $3 million, one-year contract that allows him to earn an additional $7 million in performance bonuses. Tillman would earn $1 million each for 125 and 150 innings, $1.5 million apiece for 175 and 190 and $2 million for 200 as part of his deal. He was 1-7 with a 7.84 ERA in 19 starts and five relief appearances last year. He is the second starter added by the Orioles in the past week after right-hander Andrew Cashner. Tillman likely will join right-handers Dylan Bundy, Kevin Gausman and Cashner in the rotation.

n Joaquin Benoit can earn $1 million in performance bonuses in addition to his $1 million base salary with the Washington Nationals. Washington announced the deal with the 40-year-old reliever and opened a roster spot by placing pitcher Joe Ross on the 60-day disabled list as he recovers from Tommy John surgery in July. A right-hander who first reached the big leagues in 2001, Benoit has played for eight teams and finished last year with Pittsburgh. He has 764 career appearances, going 58-49 with a 3.83 ERA and 53 saves.

n Tampa Bay Rays prospect Brent Honeywell left the mound during a live batting practice session with what the team diagnosed as a right forearm strain. The 22-year-old right-hander got hurt Thursday while facing major league batters for the first time this spring. Honeywell is regarded as one of the top pitching prospects in baseball. He was MVP of last year’s All-Star Futures Game and went 12-8 with a 3.64 ERA in 24 starts for Triple-A Durham last season.

n Veteran outfielder Cameron Maybin had to correct himself Wednesday as he talked about rejoining the team that first made him an everyday player. He said he was happy to be back with the Florida Marlins before noting a name change since he left.

“It has been a while — what, about 10 years, I think,” Maybin said.

He actually departed after the 2010 season. The franchise became the Miami Marlins two years later, and now Maybin’s back. The well-traveled 11-year veteran signed a $3.25 million, one-year contract and gives the young, rebuilding Marlins much-needed experience.

He can earn an additional $750,000 in performance bonuses.

The previous time Maybin came to the Marlins, they were in the midst of another payroll-reducing makeover. He was acquired before the 2008 season along with left-handed pitching prospects Dontrelle Willis and Andrew Miller in a seven-player deal that sent slugger Miguel Cabrera to the Detroit Tigers.