BOSTON -- The Red Sox' acquisition of Mark Melancon from the Astros for infielder Jed Lowrie and pitcher Kyle Weiland doesn't necessarily mean they've found their replacement for Jonathan Papelbon.
Melancon is a solid arm for the back end of the bullpen, said one major league scout, "but not an A.L. East closer."
Another scout was even more emphatic:
"Theyre not even considering him as the closer, I hope . . . No way. No way. Straight fastball. He throws pretty hard. But his fastballs pretty straight. He relies on a big curveball. Thats his best pitch. Hes one of those guys you can throw him in the mix in the seventh and eighth inning, and for match-ups."
But Melancon could take on the closer role, or, if the Sox continue their hunt to fill the vacancy left by Papelbons departure to Philadelphia, move into Daniel Bards set-up role. And his acquisition enables the Sox to move Bard andor Alfredo Aceves into the rotation, as has been planned. (Both are expected to report to spring training prepared to start.)
A ninth-round pick of the Yankees in 2006 out of the University of Arizona, Melancon appeared in a career-high 71 games for Houston last season, posting a record of 8-4 with a 2.78 ERA. He led the 56-106 Astros with 20 saves (and had five blown saves). He took over the closers role when ex-Sox reliever Brandon Lyon was injured early in the year, recording his first career save May 6 in Pittsburgh.
In three major-league seasons with the Yankees and Astros, Melancon has appeared in 106 games, with a record of 10-5 (3.21). He had a 2.54 strikeouts-per-walks ratio and 1.224 WHIP last season.
Melancon, who turns 27 in March, is returning to the American League East after being sent from the Yankees to Houston at the 2010 trading deadline (along with third baseman Jimmy Paredes) for Lance Berkman. He is not eligible for arbitration until 2014 and not eligible for free agency until 2017.
Weiland was the Sox third-round pick in 2008 out of Notre Dame. He made his major league debut July 10 against the Orioles at Fenway and went 0-3 (7.66) in seven games (five starts), spanning 24 23 innings last season.
Lowrie was a supplemental first-round pick (45th overall) of the Sox in 2005 out of Stanford. He had been limited by injuries, appearing in a career-high 88 games in 2011, since making his major league debut in 2008. His .252 average last season matches his career average. Lowrie, who played every infield position and also served as the designated hitter for one game last season, was backed up behind Marco Scutaro and Jose Iglesias.
With the trade, the Sox 40-man roster is at 37.
The trade is the first for both Sox general manager Ben Cherington and Astros GM Jeff Luhnow, both in the first year in their respective jobs.