NL West Notes: Melancon, Dodgers, Bryant

Diamondbacks closer Mark Melancon took his fifth loss Saturday — a remarkable stat given that he entered the year with 30 losses in 13 prior seasons — and manager Torey Lovullo answered somewhat vaguely when asked whether the four-time All-Star would remain in the closer’s role (link via Jose M. Romero of the Arizona Republic). “We’re going to still have some more discussions about his availability,” Lovullo said while also accepting responsibility for some of Melancon’s struggles, which have come amid a heavy workload. Melancon spent a week on the Covid list from April 29 through May 6 and then made six appearances in a span of nine days following his activation. He yielded 10 runs in 3 2/3 innings during that time.

Signed by the D-backs to a two-year, $14MM contract over the winter, Melancon has surrendered 14 runs (11 earned) on 20 hits and five walks with just four strikeouts in 11 2/3 frames thus far. His fastball, which averaged 92.2 mph in 2021, is now sitting at just 90.8 mph. Melancon’s swinging-strike and chase rates are actually better than last season’s marks, though, and he’s been plagued by a sky-high .396 average on balls in play. If the Diamondbacks do go in another direction, veteran Ian Kennedy has ample experience and is second on the team with five holds, having been Lovullo’s primary eighth-inning option thus far.

Some more notes from the division…

  • Dodgers lefties Clayton Kershaw and Andrew Heaney could both be ready for bullpen sessions this week, manager Dave Roberts said at yesterday’s media session (Twitter links via The Athletic’s Fabian Ardaya). Kershaw felt some minor soreness while playing catch but could be cleared for a ’pen session by Wednesday. There’s no specific day set for a Heaney bullpen, but he’s also been playing catch. Kershaw has a 1.80 ERA through five starts and 30 innings this season but recently landed on the shelf owing to a hip issue that was treated with an epidural. Heaney has been out since mid-April due to shoulder trouble but opened plenty of eyes early in his Dodgers tenure. In 10 1/3 innings, Heaney allowed only an unearned run on four hits and three walks with a whopping 16 strikeouts. Brandishing a new-look slider in place of his former curveball and having all but scrapped his changeup, Heaney posted a mammoth 20.5% swinging-strike rate and 36.5% opponents’ chase rate prior to landing on the IL. He inked a one-year, $8.5MM deal with the Dodgers at the beginning of the offseason. Kershaw signed a one-year, $17MM deal to return not long after the lockout lifted.
  • Kris Bryant is joining the Rockies’ Triple-A affiliate for a pair of minor league rehab games this week, tweets Danielle Allentuck of the Denver Gazette. If all goes well, he could be back in the lineup for the Rox by the weekend. Out since April 26 due to a back injury that the team hoped would require a minimum IL stay, Bryant will instead wind up missing three-plus weeks of action, at least. As Nick Groke of The Athletic writes, Bryant received a cortisone shot last week after an initial period of rest didn’t fully remedy his ailment. Bryant’s return could push the struggling Sam Hilliard to Triple-A, particularly with the out-of-options Yonathan Daza hitting well at the moment and thus giving the team a productive fourth outfield option. Utilityman Garrett Hampson is also capable of playing all three outfield spots, though he’s been primarily used as an infielder in 2022.

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