Melancon to join USA for Classic semifinal

Melancon to join USA for Classic semifinal

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Mark Melancon sensed the time was right to make his next potential trip from the bullpen not on behalf of his team, but for his country.

The Giants' closer left the ballclub Sunday to join the U.S. team for its semifinal showdown Tuesday against Japan in the World Baseball Classic at Dodger Stadium (9 p.m. ET on MLB Network and MLB.TV).

Teams reaching the Classic's third round are allowed to make changes to their pitching staffs by selecting reinforcements from a provisional roster. The addition of Melancon, who converted 47 saves in 51 opportunities for the Pirates and Nationals last year, ostensibly strengthens the U.S. bullpen.

The World Baseball Classic runs through Wednesday. In the U.S., games air live exclusively in English on MLB Network and on an authenticated basis via MLBNetwork.com/watch, while ESPN Deportes and WatchESPN provide the exclusive Spanish-language coverage. MLB.TV Premium subscribers in the U.S. have access to watch every tournament game live on any of the streaming service's 400-plus supported devices. The tournament is being distributed internationally across all forms of television, internet, mobile and radio in territories excluding the U.S., Puerto Rico and Japan. Get tickets for the Championship Round at Dodger Stadium, while complete coverage -- including schedules, video, stats and gear -- is available at WorldBaseballClassic.com.

Melancon comprehended the potential impact of his presence on the U.S. squad. But after capitalizing on free agency to sign a four-year, $62 million deal with the Giants last December, the right-hander figured he should assimilate himself with his new team before considering a Classic stint. Making seven scoreless appearances for the Giants in Cactus League play helped Melancon gain enough comfort to take this detour in his preseason preparation.

"I really wanted to go. I just didn't feel like [initially] it was appropriate given the time frame and signing here," said Melancon, 31.

Melancon said as he watched Saturday's telecast of the Americans' 6-3 triumph over the Dominican Republic that put them in the semis, he already knew he would depart for Los Angeles if Team USA advanced.

"It's a good bridge to the season," said Melancon, who'll join a pair of Giants teammates in the U.S. contingent, catcher Buster Posey and shortstop Brandon Crawford.

Melancon said he has watched many of the World Baseball Classic telecasts and appreciated the nationalistic fervor expressed therein.

For some, that became a source of humor. Giants catcher Nick Hundley and infielder Jimmy Rollins mocked Johnny Cueto by jumping around him and chanting "U-S-A!" when the Dominican right-hander entered the clubhouse Sunday. Cueto, who would have joined the Dominican squad had it defeated the U.S., took to Twitter to depict himself howling with glee over the Dominicans' comeback victory over the U.S. last Saturday.

Cueto didn't mind being teased.

"They're just having a good time," Cueto said through interpreter Erwin Higueros.

If anything stung Cueto, it was accusations from fellow Dominicans who claimed he resisted playing for the team because his six-year, $130 million contract drained his desire to play.

Cueto responded to this criticism by citing the facts: As Spring Training began, he was preoccupied with helping his ill father, Domingo, obtain the proper documentation to travel with him to the U.S. to obtain improved health care. Though Cueto tried to keep his arm limber by throwing at the Giants' training complex in Boca Chica, D.R., he couldn't truly work toward being in game shape until he arrived here March 4.

"I truly wanted to represent my country," Cueto said. "I also reported late and I couldn't just put my baseball career in jeopardy. ... Everybody should know I didn't go because I wasn't ready to play at that level."

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. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.