MIAMI -- It didn't affect the game in any significant way, but reliever Mark Melancon was happy to pitch the eighth inning Monday night, his first appearance in the big leagues since the second week of the season.
The fact that it was a perfect inning was a bonus.
Melancon, who found himself optioned back to the minor leagues after just four appearances, came out of the bullpen after starter Josh Beckett was lifted for a pinch-hitter in the top of the eighth.
He recorded a flyout, then two groundouts in a 1-2-3 inning.
"That was what I was hoping to see," said manager Bobby Valentine. "He had a much better angle on his fastball and his curveball was sharp. He looked totally in control."
"It felt good to be out there," said Melancon, who spent nearly two months at Pawtucket, waiting for a chance to return. "It was definitely tough (to be in the minors). But at the same time, I knew why I was down there (and) everybody up here was doing really well. While I was down there, I was just staying focused and waiting for the opportunity.
"It's nice to be back. It wasn't a crucial thing (to have a perfect inning in his first outing), but it was definitely nice to be back out there and here with the team."
While he was in the minors, Melancon said he "didn't change anything mechanically. It was just more of an approach and mindset. I felt good. I felt like I'm back."
Comparing himself now to the way he was throwing in April, Melancon believes he's far more aggressive -- in both his approach and his pitch selection.
"I've searched and searched for that answer," said Melancon, "and I think that's the best answer -- just being aggressive."