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Melancon's return is key to Giants' bullpen

MLB.com @sfgiantsbeat

SAN FRANCISCO -- Two closers are theoretically better than one, though the Giants would prefer to define the role as a solo act this year.

The Giants signed Mark Melancon to a four-year, $62 million contract last offseason to stabilize the bullpen's back end, but a forearm injury limited the right-hander to 32 appearances and 11 saves in 16 chances during the 2017 campaign.

SAN FRANCISCO -- Two closers are theoretically better than one, though the Giants would prefer to define the role as a solo act this year.

The Giants signed Mark Melancon to a four-year, $62 million contract last offseason to stabilize the bullpen's back end, but a forearm injury limited the right-hander to 32 appearances and 11 saves in 16 chances during the 2017 campaign.

Acquired from the Rangers in early June, Sam Dyson handled the closer's duties capably, converting 14 of 17 opportunities. However, the Giants would prefer to stick with Plan A and use Melancon as the closer, which in turn would deepen the rest of the bullpen by making Dyson a setup man.

Video: COL@SF: Dyson completes Giants' shutout of Rockies

MLB.com is taking a look at the projected bullpen of all 30 teams ahead of Spring Training. Here's how the Giants might stack up:

BULLPEN IF SEASON STARTED TODAY
Mark Melancon, RHP
Sam Dyson, RHP
Hunter Strickland, RHP
Cory Gearrin, RHP
Derek Law, RHP
Ty Blach, LHP
Steven Okert, LHP
Kyle Crick, RHP
Josh Osich, LHP
Reyes Moronta, RHP

STRENGTH
There's plenty of potential here. Okert and Osich both have excellent stuff and can make the bullpen a devastating one if they gain command of their deliveries. The same goes for Law and Moronta, the hard-throwing rookie. And Strickland will continue to make his presence felt as long as he's around. Blach will compete for a spot in the starting rotation, where he spent most of 2017. But he fits the profile of a long reliever and could fill that role if necessary.

Video: SD@SF: Osich gets Hedges to fly out to end the game

QUESTION MARK
That would be Mark, as in Melancon. His health and effectiveness will go a long way toward determining the bullpen's season-long effectiveness. Should Melancon regain his elite form, the Giants would take a big step forward to regaining contender's status. And if left-hander Will Smith comes back strong from Tommy John surgery, that'll be an added bonus, given his versatility.

WHAT MIGHT CHANGE
Virtually every team alters the look of its bullpen every year, even if it's to add only one guy. After all, it's often a very key guy, and the Giants are no exception. They could pick up a true long reliever/sixth starter, a role that Yusmeiro Petit handled so well during his Giants tenure. They might add a true "lights-out" setup reliever or two, though these kinds of stalwarts aren't in great supply. But the Giants have plenty of room for improvement when it comes to overwhelming opposing hitters. Among National League clubs last season, San Francisco's relievers ranked next to last in strikeout-to-walk ratio (2.08) and third from last in strikeouts per nine innings (8.36).

Chris Haft has covered the Giants since 2005, and for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter at @sfgiantsbeat and listen to his podcast.

San Francisco Giants, Mark Melancon