PHOENIX -- Last offseason, Tim Melville was working at Little Miss BBQ, a barbeque restaurant near his home in the Phoenix area. When the 2019 baseball season arrived, he wasn’t signed to a team, so in his spare time, he attended one of the D-backs’ first home games vs. the Red Sox with his girlfriend.
A little more than four months later, Melville returned to Chase Field. Only this time, he was wearing a Rockies uniform, standing on the mound and facing the D-backs lineup he had previously watched from the stands.
It was an unorthodox path back to the Majors for the 29-year-old, who has bounced around seven organizations in the past decade, but it was one that worked. Exactly two years to the day since his last Major League start, Melville secured his first career MLB win with seven innings of one-run ball, leading Colorado to a 7-2 victory in its series finale against Arizona.
“A lot of guys play golf in the afternoons during the offseason, and I was just tired of that,” Melville said. “Fortunately, I lived close to one of the top barbeque places in the country, and I’m a big food guy. … Only a little cooking experience, but they let me get on board.”
More fortunately, Melville found his way back to baseball. Shortly after he was watching games, he was back to pitching in them. He signed with the Long Island Ducks of the independent Atlantic League, where he made two starts. At that point, he was offered a deal by the Rockies.
“I didn’t have a job, and I was just very thankful for them,” Melville said.
Melville spent three months pitching for Triple-A Albuquerque, where he went 10-5 with a 5.42 ERA in 18 games (17 starts) in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League. Then, on Tuesday night around 11 p.m. PT, in bed at a Sacramento hotel, Melville got the call saying he was heading back to the big leagues.
With scheduled Rockies starter Jon Gray placed on the injured list with a left foot fracture, Colorado needed a starter on short notice for Wednesday afternoon’s game. So Melville was summoned for his first Major League start since Aug. 21, 2017, when he was with the Twins, and his first appearance on a big league mound since a relief outing for the Padres on Sept. 25, 2017.
Melville delivered a performance better than the Rockies likely could have expected. The right-hander gave up just two hits, with his only run allowed coming on a Ketel Marte homer in the sixth inning.
Although it was a long wait between big league starts, Melville kept the same mindset along the way.
“You win or you learn, I never look at it as losing,” Melville said. “I’ve had a lot of ups and downs throughout my career, especially in other opportunities I’ve had in the big leagues. I’m just very thankful for this one, and to be able to capitalize and get a ‘W’ today for the team.”
It wasn’t flashy, as Melville doesn’t have overpowering stuff. He notched four strikeouts, while mostly relying on his fastball/curveball combo. His 33 four-seamers averaged 89.3 mph, per Statcast, and he threw 38 curveballs, including three that dropped below 73 mph.
Yet, the right-hander handcuffed the D-backs for most of the day. Melville faced a two-out jam in the first after giving up a double to Eduardo Escobar and walking David Peralta, but he got Jake Lamb to fly out to right field, as Charlie Blackmon made a nice catch at the wall to end the inning.
“That’s a throwback-pitching-style game,” Rockies manager Bud Black said. “He could’ve pitched in the [1920s], he could’ve pitched in the ’50s, ’70s, ’80s. Then, [in] the ’90s it gets a little different, and [in] this day and age, with the velocity and everything. But that was fun to watch, a guy [who] understands how he gets his outs, how he changes speeds. And he stayed just within himself and did his thing. It was beautiful.”
Nunez was excited for the opportunity to call a game for Melville again, and the duo navigated their way through a tremendous outing. It was only the second time Melville went seven innings this year -- he did it with Albuquerque on June 5 vs. Triple-A Omaha -- and it was the first time he completed more than four innings in seven MLB appearances (four starts).
“When you work with someone down in Triple-A, and both of us have been grinding -- it’s tough to pitch down there, a lot of ambushers and free-swingers and sometimes they run into something that you don’t even think they’re going to run into,” Nunez said. “It was an exciting day and he definitely handled it really well. Obviously, he has a little bit of big league time, but he just focused on executing every single pitch, stuck to his own game plan and it was great.”
Melville also contributed offensively, collecting an RBI single during the Rockies’ three-run fourth on his first career hit. He drove in another run with a well-placed bunt in the sixth.
Melville was just grateful to be back in the big leagues and to contribute in any way he could. He certainly made a great first impression on Colorado.
“It’s an excellent clubhouse, and I’m excited to learn about the culture here and some of the guys,” Melville said. “I know a few guys already, but it’s a new opportunity for me and I’m excited for it.”