After delivering seven flawless Cactus League appearances for the San Francisco Giants, Mark Melancon is joining Orange and Black teammates Buster Posey and Brandon Crawford for the World Baseball Classic semifinals.
The Giants’ ninth-inning stopper will be in the bullpen at Dodger Stadium on Tuesday night, as Team USA meets up with Japan.
“I’ve watched a lot. I’ve enjoyed it. Knowing most of the guys in the games, it’s been fun to watch the country pride that they have,” Melancon said, per CSN Bay Area. “To me, some of it is ridiculous, but when you know them and understand their background and how big a deal culturally it is, you end up starting to get on board with the way they go about things.”
A victory on Tuesday night would send the trio of Giants onto the final on Wednesday against the winner of the other semifinals matchup between the Netherlands and Puerto Rico. The latter club was the team that dumped The Red, White and Blue out of the 2013 iteration of the Classic.
No Classic for Cueto
Team USA’s 6-3 win over the Dominican Republic on Saturday not only eliminated the reigning champs but also extinguished Johnny Cueto’s chances of pitching for his homeland.
The Giants’ right-hander had been slated to suit up for the Dominican before an illness to his father kept him from spring training for the first three weeks of camp. Cueto said he took plenty of heat for never making it on the mound in WBC play.
“There was a lot of talk back home that I didn’t want to play because I’m making too much money,” Cueto told CSN Bay Area.
Cueto made it clear that it wasn’t his contract (he can opt out at season’s end) but the fact that he wasn’t physically ready — after his delayed start to the Cactus League — that caused his absence. Speaking with KNBR on Sunday, the right-hander praised the Giants for looking out for his dad.
“Well, first I just want to say that I’m happy,” Cueto said via club translator Erwin Higueros. “I feel very glad that the team is actually taking care of him and mainly he’s here with me, so he’s doing great.”
The Giants’ other WBC star
If Posey, Crawford, Melancon and the rest of Team USA advance to Wednesday’s final, they could run up against a familiar face in San Francisco hitting coach Hensley Meulens, the skipper for the Netherlands.
Meulens, who has three rings with the Giants, also piloted the Netherlands to a semifinal spot in 2013. Now, the longtime coach hopes his Classic success will earn him some looks from MLB front offices.
“Hopefully this will trigger some [managerial] interviews this offseason,” Meulens told ESPN. “If not, I have a great job. I’m working with some of best hitters in the game on a daily basis, and I love doing that too. It’s been a great run in San Francisco. If things don’t work out, I’m fine where I’m at.”
Beede, Arroyo head to minors
On Sunday, the Giants sent Tyler Beede — their most-touted pitching prospect — and Christian Arroyo — their top-rated position player — to minor league camp.
On their final day with the big club, Beede spun a pair of shutout innings in relief and Arroyo connected on his first homer of the spring. Manager Bruce Bochy said that Beede, a starter by trade, could earn his first look with the Giants as a reliever.
“I’m not saying that’s what he’s going to do, but it keeps his options open and ours if we need help in the ’pen,” Bochy said, per CSN Bay Area.
Young A’s starter leaves his mark
Daniel Gossett, one of five non-roster players sent to the minors on Sunday, has put himself in a strong position to pitch at the Coliseum in 2017.
The Oakland Athletics’ 2014 second-round pick, who opened last season in High-A but ended it in Triple-A, caught the attention of manager Bob Melvin this spring.
“As far as the starting pitchers have gone that don’t look to potentially be here [on Opening Day], he’s at the top of the list,” Melvin told MLB.com.
Last year, the A’s needed 14 starting pitchers — all of whom made at least five starts — to get through the 162-game schedule.