Rockies pitching coach Steve Foster's first look at Tim Melville came back in 2012. Melville was a fourth-year pro, having been selected by the Royals in the fourth round of the 2009 first-year player draft, and have worked his way up to Double-A Northwest Arkansas.
"He was a project," said Foster. "He was a flame throwing right-hander with some off-speed pitches, but he hadn't quite harnessed them.
"He was a kid. He was brash. `I'm going to throw that pitch right by everybody.'"
Fast forward to 2019. Melville and Foster have been reunited in Colorado. Foster is the Rockies big-league pitching coach. Melville is a journeyman pitcher, surfacing at Coors Field last month with the hope he could help patch together a leaking rotation.
"Different body, different frame," said Foster. "Maturity in his ability to talk the came. It is incredible to see the transformation to a finnesse pitcher. He he getting guys looking for a slider at 83, 84 and throwing a 90-mile-per-hour fastball by them. It looks like 98.
"It's about years of experience, aptitude and desire. How many guys are willing to do what he has done, to keep pitching, keep looking for that big-league opportunity."
And he is getting the best opportunity of his career. He pitched in the big leagues with the Reds (2016), Twins (2017) and Padres (2017). They weren't much in the weigh of opportunities. He appeared in six games, three starts, and pitched a combined total of 14 2/3 innings for those three teams.
Melville is the scheduled starter for the Rockies at San Diego in Friday's opening game of a three-game series. It's his fourth start for the Rockies, and he already has 14 innings of work under his belt.
The Rockies are hoping he can help get them back on track. The Rockies are looking to snap a nine-game losing streak, and have lost 15 of their last 17 games. The two wins? Melville started them, earning his first big-league victory in his Rockies debut at Arizona on Aug. 21, and winding up with a no-decision but started and working five shutout innings five days later against the Braves.
The last time out, on Saturday against the Pirates, he lasted only two innings and gave up five runs in an 11-4 loss.
He was disappointed -- not intimidated. He has a confidence that he belongs and he welcomes a chance the Rockies have given him to prove it.
Things have certainly changed since that summer of 2009 when the confident and slender right-hander out of Wentzville (Mo.) High School was throwing heat.
"Now, it's the other way around," he said. "He went from Nolan Ryan to Rick Rueschel. Is he hungry? He's played independent ball He's gone to Mexico. I love to see how he has come up here and pitched with confidence."
What it tells you is Melville is a lifer. Baseball is what he is drawn to.
It's why this spring, while he was working at a barbeque near Chase Field in Arizona he would be a fan in the stands, still harboring that childhood dream, and then decided to return to Long Island in the independent Atlantic League.
"I love baseball," he said with a big smile. "I can't read or write very well. It's what I do."
And he is willing to do anything that he feels might help him hang on to his dream a little longer.
"It was a conscious change," he said of the adjusted pitching. "I started to realize I could get guys out that way. You reach a point where you put the ego (of being a hard thrower) aside."
The focus is on winning games and staying in the big leagues. And for Melville that means doing whatever it takes to succeed.
He has had a taste of that in his first couple of weeks with the Rockies. Now the challenge is to build off that in the next four weeks.
Friday night in San Diego is his opportunity to take that next step forward.