SAN FRANCISCO — Sometime this weekend, Giants reliever Hunter Strickland will pitch to Bryce Harper for the first time since drilling the Nationals slugger in the hip with a 98 mph fastball that sparked a brawl.
“I can’t wait,” Strickland said Wednesday before the Giants closed their homestead with a matinee against the World Series champion Chicago Cubs. The Giants and National play a three-game series in D.C. beginning Friday.
But Strickland said the Memorial Day incident in San Francisco, which led to punches being exchanged and left him with a six-game suspension, is in his rear-view mirror.
“You’re still playing ball. You’ve still got to make your pitches. Obviously, he’s a great hitter,” Strickland said. “The past is the past and we move forward. I’ll be trying to get him out.”
How fans in Washington react might be a different matter.
“He’ll probably get a standing ovation,” Giants manager Bruce Bochy joked. “We know how well-loved he is there.”
The incident two months ago was fallout from the 2014 playoffs when Strickland gave up two home runs to Harper. Strickland has since said he regrets the retaliation, but is ready to hear the boos.
“I’m sure the fans aren’t too happy. I understand that side of it. I don’t blame them. It comes with game,” he said. “I’m not too worried about it. We’ve got a job to do. All of that is in the past. Just got to be ready to play ball.”
Added Bochy: “One of those incidents you have to put behind you. It happens throughout the game of baseball. It won’t be the last time.”
— Bochy said closer Mark Melancon (right pronator strain) will travel with the team Thursday and will be re-evaluated Friday. If things progress, Melancon could soon be activated from the disabled list. Melancon pitched a scoreless inning for the Single-A San Jose Giants on Tuesday night.
“Seems like he came out of that fine, which is good news,” Bochy said.
Sam Dyson has handled the closer’s role in Melancon’s absence, but Bochy wasn’t willing to say how he would arrange things when Melancon is available again.
“It’s a good question because he has done a great job,” Bochy said of Dyson, who is 7 for 8 in save opportunities since taking on that role. “I’ll answer that as this things gets closer. Not to be on the fence … just a matter of what we end up doing with Mark initially. Using him in a non-high leverage situation early just to see where we’re at with him or throw him right into a closing role.”
— Starter Johnny Cueto, who was put on the DL last month for a blister on his throwing hand then developed forearm tightness, will travel with the team this week. Bochy said. He will begin soft-toss throwing over the weekend.
— Infielder Miguel Gomez, who came out of Tuesday night’s game because of right knee soreness, had an MRI on Wednesday morning that showed inflammation. He is day-to-day but available to pinch hit, Bochy said.
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