Bob Melvin breaks down no-hitter decisions

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

On consecutive nights, Melvin raised his starting pitcher at least six innings in a no-hitter bid.

It was Yu Darvish on Thursday, after Darvish threw six no-hitter frames on 92 pitches. A day later, Sean Manaea pitched seven innings without a hit, needing just 88 pitches to do it. Prior to this week, Melvin had never lifted a working pitcher on a no-no in his 18 years as a manager. Generally speaking, his preference is to give his incumbents a chance to make history.

“It’s a life-changing thing,” Melvin said. “…I never want to take this guy out. It just doesn’t happen very often.”

This time, the circumstances were undeniably different. Both Darvish and Manaea were coming off of shorter-than-usual spring training and neither built close to their mid-season workload. Darvish kicked off 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 have only pitched three and four innings, respectively, in those first two games.

“With the shortened spring, you’re talking about 60 and 70 pitches that guys threw,” Melvin said. “I was a little uncomfortable with [Manaea pitching] the seventh, to tell you the truth. Rather, you target five [innings] to start the season — maybe six. Seven was an extreme.”

Darvish and Manaea gave their full support to Melvin’s decisions. Manaea had actually convinced Melvin to let him pitch that seventh Friday night. But after setting the core of the D-backs lineup in order, he wasn’t begging for the eighth. Like the night before, the team’s no-hitter combined bid ended immediately after, with left-hander Tim Hill giving up a no-fault single.

Could Manaea have worked two more innings without allowing a hit? Of course it is possible. But in the eyes of the Padres, it would have put his health at risk. Having failed to hit six innings at any time during shortened spring training, an immediate jump to nine would have been ill-advised, Melvin said.

“Pitch count increases after shortened spring training,” Manaea said. “I hadn’t really built completely. I think at the end of the day, as long as I feel good about my next start, that’s really all that matters. We’re definitely worried about the future here.”

Said Melvin: “If it’s three or four starts in the season, it’s different.”

“Talk about being uncomfortable,” Melvin said of that night.

Melvin is a student of the history of the game. Was it even a little weird to be in the manager’s chair, making the decision to retire a starting pitcher who hadn’t allowed a hit? And do it again the next night?

“You know what, it really wasn’t,” Melvin said. “The last two nights, even though it should have been, it really wasn’t.”

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