Scouts: Melancon can't close in A.L. East

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Scouts: Melancon can't close in A.L. East

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.

Quotes, notes and stars: Red Sox 'a pitch or two from finishing the job' vs. Rays

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Quotes, notes and stars: Red Sox 'a pitch or two from finishing the job' vs. Rays

BOSTON - Quotes, notes and stars from the Red Sox' 4-3 loss to Tampa Bay Rays:

QUOTES:

"Part of that job is, when you miss, you have to miss to the extreme.'' - John Farrell on the role of eighth-inning reliever Clay Buchholz, who mislocated a fastball to Evan Longoria.

"We're putting ourselves in position to close games out and yet we've found ourselves a pitch or two from finishing the job.'' - Farrell on the team's bullpen woes.

"Fastball. I was trying to throw it up-and-away, and I pulled it, more inner-third. That's a spot where he hits the ball a long way.'' - Clay Buchholz on the game-winning homer by Longoria.

 

NOTES:

* The Rays and Sox have played 21 one-run games in the lasr four seasons and four in the last week.

* David Ortiz's sacrifice fly in the sixth was his 26th go-ahead RBI, fourth-best in the A.L.

* Xander Bogaerts collected his 500th career hit, and became the fifth Red Sox player to reach that milestone before turning 24.

* Brock Holt's double in the fifth lifted his average to .337 with two outs.

* Hanley Ramirez's home run was his first against Tampa Bay since May 21, 2011 when he was with the Marlins.

* Ramirez has 19 extra-base hits in the last 27 home games.

* Dustin Pedroia was 1-for-3 and and is now 15-for-his-last-19 at Fenway.

* The Sox dropped to 7-37 when they score three runs or fewer.

* Brad Ziegler was unavailable, suffering from the flu.

 

STARS:

1) Evan Longoria

It wouldn't be a Rays win over the Red Sox without the third baseman doing some damage. Sure enough, he smoked a tape-measure shot over everything in left in the eighth to provide the winning margin for the visitors.

2) Luke Maile

Drew Pomeranz struck him out twice, but Maile more than got revenge in the seventh with a two-run homer into the Monster Seats to tie the game.

3) Hanley Ramirez

The first baseman had a three-hit night, including a solo homer and a run-scoring single, accounting for two of the three Red Sox runs.

 

First impressions: Longoria makes Buchholz pay in Red Sox' 4-3 loss to Rays

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First impressions: Longoria makes Buchholz pay in Red Sox' 4-3 loss to Rays

BOSTON - First impressions from the Red Sox' 4-3 loss to Tampa Bay:

* There's a steep learning curve for a set-up man, as Clay Buchholz discovered.

Although he's pitched out of the bullpen for the last couple of months, most of those appearances weren't of the high leverage variety. More often than not, the Sox had a sizeable lead, or Buchholz was brought in earlier in the game. Or they were behind and he was mopping up.

But Tuesday was different. The Rays had battled back to tie the game in the bottom of the seventh, and after Matt Barnes got the final out in that inning, Buchholz came in to start the eighth.

After getting Kevin Kiermaier on a groundout to lead off the inning, Buchholz threw a four-seamer to Evan Longoria that the Tampa Bay third baseman launched toward the Charles River, clearing everything and putting the Rays up by a run.

It was a reminder that in late innings of close games, one pitch, with missed location, can really hurt.

 

* Hanley Ramirez knocked in two runs. He was sort of lucky.

In the fifth inning, Ramirez hit a twisting opposite-field fly ball down the right field line. It landed just past the Pesky Pole in right, measured at 307 feet, the shortest homer in baseball this season, according to ESPN Stats and Information.

Then, an inning later, Ramirez hit a pop fly that drifted into shallow right. Three Rays defenders converged -- first baseman, second baseman and right fielder -- and somehow the ball dropped in between all three for a run-scoring single.

Two cheap hits, two RBI.

At times, you'll see hitters mash the ball, only to have it hit right at someone for an out. Rotten luck, and all.

Tuesday night, Ramirez got to experience the flip side of that.

 

* Drew Pomeranz had an excellent outing -- until his final pitch of the night.

Through 6 2/3 innings, Pomeranz had allowed a single run on four hits while walking two and striking out eight.

He had retired 10 of the previous 11 hitters he had faced, and while he was approaching his 100th pitch, showed no evidence of tiring.

Then, Pomernaz hung a curveball to No. 9 hitter Luke Maile -- with two strikes, no less -- and Maile hit into the Monster Seats for a game-tying, two-run homer.

It was the first homer on a curveball allowed by Pomeranz in 153 innings this season, and all of a sudden, the outing wasn't so special.