BOSTON It was not an easy start for Mark Melancons Red Sox tenure. After just four games, he was sent to Triple-A Pawtucket, lugging an ERA of 49.50 with him.
Now he's back. Melancon was in the Red Sox clubhouse and on the roster Sunday morning, after left-hander Rich Hill was moved to the disabled list with tightness in his surgically repaired left elbow.
Melancon has not been on a major league mound since April 17 against the Rangers when he faced six batters without recording an out. He gave six runs on four hits, including three home runs, and two walks. He had never given up more than one home run in an outing before that.
He was sent to Pawtucket with the mission of working on being more aggressive and pitching inside. He also knew that to get back to Boston, he had to take the demotion with the right attitude.
Well, after five or six times doing it, you realize that it doesnt help to go down there and get mad, Melancon said . So, no its tough to go down there after youve had a couple bad outings but you got to make the best of it, and thats what I was trying to do.
Its kind of like, I dont know, I guess if you go to a different school and then you come back, you kind of just see all your old friends, he said of being back. Just a good feeling, yeah.
Obviously, you dont wish for an injury, you dont want anybody to do bad. So when the Sox bullpen set the bar as high as they were, its pretty obvious why I was down there and kind of hanging out.
In 21 games with the PawSox, Melancon posted an ERA of 0.83 with 11 saves. in 21 23 innings, he gave up just two runs on 15 hits and three walks, with 27 strikeouts and no home runs.
A lot more aggressive and just throwing strikes, Melancon said. That was the main focus, continuing to throw all the pitches and work on that. More or less, it was the approach and the aggressiveness.
I didn't focus on mechanics too much. I didnt think that was an issue. Just my cutter, my changeup. But obviously Im always working on my fastball, always my curveball. The biggest thing was the aggressiveness and approach.
The results were almost immediate for Melancon, who never lost confidence, he said.
It was nice to get out of an inning, he said with a laugh. A lot of people asked me, Was it confidence? No, it wasnt confidence. I really didnt think it was, and I still dont think thats what it was. Simply aggressiveness and an approach.
Manager Bobby Valentine is pleased with the adjustments Melancon was able to make in Pawtucket, as well as the results.
Every report was excellent from about the third day that he got there, Valentine said. He regained command of his fastball, his curve ballIm not sure if it got sharper but it became a much more functional pitch and he started throwing his changeup, also. He threw to both sides of the plate, maintained his velocity, pitched more than two innings. He would have been back sooner if our bullpen wasnt doing as well as its been.
Melancon was acquired in a trade with the Astros in December for shortstop Jed Lowrie and right-hander Kyle Weiland. Originally, it was planned for him to be the closer, until the acquisition of Andrew Bailey from the As. At that point, Melancon was going to be a set-up manmiddle reliever. Hes not sure what his role will be now.
Valentine was asked if he has the confidence to use Melancon in big situations.
As good as hes throwing Id like to put him in situations that will help us win a game, if its needed, Valentine said.