Melancon Dominating Triple-A

After taking over as Houston’s closer in May of last year, Mark Melancon was the only Major League pitcher at the end of the season to record at least eight wins and 20 saves. To bolster their bullpen, the Red Sox traded infielder Jed Lowrie and right-hander Kyle Weiland for the hard-throwing righty on December 14.

The season did not begin well for Melancon in Boston. He gave up 11 runs in two innings pitched before being sent to Pawtucket. However, since joining the PawSox, Melancon has refined his pitching and is flat out dominating batters throughout the International League.

“He’s doing what he came down here to do,” said pitching coach, Rich Sauveur. “He’s locating the fastball better, keeping it down more. He’s mixing his pitches better and he’s challenging batters inside.”

Mark Melancon last pithced in the International League in 2010 when he made 40 appearances with Scranton/Wilkes-Barre before being traded in the Lance Berkman deal with Houston on July 31, 2010. (Kelly O’Connor)

As Sauveur later told me, locating his fastball and pitching inside where the top two priorities for Melancon when he was sent down.

“I’ve always pitched inside throughout my career and I got away from that early on this year,” said Melancon. “It’s a mindset, you have to be agressive. There’s definitely a strategic plan that goes along with it.”

A third reason why the righty has had such success is the refinement of his curveball. It was a comment from the PawSox bullpen catcher that clicked with Melancon and has helped him improve what is no doubt a plus-pitch. “He told me it was just hanging there a little too long,” Melancon said.

“I’ve had that problem before, it’s always been a pitch that I’ve thrown very hard.” How did Melancon fix the problem? “It required somewhat of a mindset. [Now] I make sure that I finish it. By doing that you get that extra rotation on it.”

“Mark already had a Major League curveball,” Sauveur remarked. “It’s just what while he’s been down here it has gotten that much better because it breaks a lot later.”

“Everything he’s done in his last five or six outings is everything we’ve asked for. Mark is dominating these hitters now – it’s not fair to them.”

On a rainy afternoon in Norfolk yesterday, Melancon finally surrendered his first walk and run of the season and now has to settle for a 0.64 ERA (1 ER/14.0 IP). Although he’s looking like he belongs in the Boston, the Red Sox don’t have much room in a bullpen that has come together. For the time being, the PawSox will take him as long as they can.



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