No second thoughts from Melvin after lifting 2 pitchers amid no-hitters

April 10th, 2022

PHOENIX -- Two games into his Padres tenure, Bob Melvin has done something no manager had ever done before:

On consecutive nights, Melvin lifted his starting pitcher at least six innings into a no-hit bid.

It was Yu Darvish on Thursday, after Darvish tossed six hitless frames on 92 pitches. A day later, Sean Manaea threw seven no-hit innings, needing just 88 pitches to do so. Prior to this week, Melvin had never before lifted a pitcher working on a no-no in his 18 years as a manager. Generally speaking, his preference is to give his starters a chance to make history.

"It's a life-changing thing," Melvin said. "… I never want to take that guy out. They just don't happen very often."

This time around, the circumstances were undeniably different. Darvish and Manaea were both coming off a shorter-than-usual Spring Training and neither was built up anywhere close to their midseason workload. Darvish pitched in three Cactus League games, Manaea in four. Typically, a starting pitcher has five or six starts under his belt by the time a season begins.

Heck, the D-backs' starters pitched only three and four innings, respectively, in those first two games.

"With the shortened spring, you're talking about 60 and 70 pitches that guys have thrown," Melvin said. "I was a little uncomfortable with [Manaea pitching] the seventh, to tell you the truth. You're targeting more like five [innings] to start the season -- maybe six. Seven was an extreme."

Both Darvish and Manaea threw their full support behind Melvin's decisions. Manaea had actually talked Melvin into letting him pitch that seventh on Friday night. But after he set down the heart of the D-backs' lineup in order, he wouldn’t beg for the eighth. Like the night before, the team’s combined no-hit bid ended immediately thereafter, with lefty Tim Hill surrendering a clean single.

Could Manaea have worked two more innings without allowing a hit? Sure, it's possible. But in the Padres' eyes that would have put him at significant health risk. Having not reached six innings at any point during a shortened Spring Training, an immediate jump to nine would've been ill-advised, Melvin said.

Last weekend, the Padres traded two of their top 30 prospects to acquire Manaea. They didn't do so for one start in April. They did so for the long haul, hoping he'll be pitching pitch deep into October. Considering the circumstances, Manaea saw the sense in it.

"Pitch count's getting up there after a shortened Spring Training," Manaea said. "I hadn't really fully built up. I think, at the end of the day, as long as I'm feeling good going into my next start, that's really all that matters. We're definitely worrying about the future here."

Said Melvin: "If that's three or four starts into the season, it's different."

Melvin has evidence to back that claim. In Manaea's fifth start of the 2018 season with Oakland, Melvin left him in the game to complete a 108-pitch no-hitter against Boston. The following year, he left Mike Fiers in for 131 pitches to complete a no-no against Cincinnati.

"Talk about uncomfortable," Melvin said of that night.

Who knows, maybe this narrative plays out a bit differently had Joe Musgrove not made Padres history with the franchise’s first no-hitter (one year ago Saturday, believe it or not).

Melvin is a student of the game's history. Was it even a little bit weird to be in the manager's chair, making a decision to remove a starting pitcher who hadn't allowed a hit? And then doing so again the following night?

"You know what, it really wasn't," Melvin said. "The last couple of nights, even though it should be, it really wasn't."