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

612546.jpg

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.

Harper, Strickland throw punches in Nationals-Giants brawl

bryce_harper_hunter_strickland_fight_052917.jpg

Harper, Strickland throw punches in Nationals-Giants brawl

SAN FRANCISCO - An enraged Bryce Harper charged the mound, fired his helmet and traded punches to the head with San Francisco reliever Hunter Strickland after getting hit by a fastball, setting off a wild brawl Monday during the Washington Nationals' 3-0 win over the Giants.

Drilled in the right hip by a 98 mph heater on Strickland's first pitch in the eighth inning with two outs, none on and Washington ahead 2-0, Harper didn't hesitate. The slugger pointed his bat at Strickland, yelled at him and took off.

No one got in Harper's way as he rushed the mound. His eyes were wide as he flung his helmet - it sailed way wide of Strickland, it might've slipped - and they started swinging away. The 6-foot-4 Strickland hit Harper in the face, then they broke apart for a moment before squaring off again. Harper punched Strickland in the head as the benches and bullpen emptied.

Giants teammates Michael Morse and Jeff Samardzija collided hard as they tried to get between the two fighters. Three Giants players forcefully dragged Strickland from the middle of the pack all the way into the dugout, while a teammate held back Harper.

Harper and Strickland were both ejected. They have some history between them - in the 2014 NL Division Series, Harper hit two home runs off Strickland, and the All-Star outfielder glared at the reliever as he rounded the bases after the second shot in Game 4.

Drellich: After golden 2016, Red Sox remember what it's like to have things go wrong

red_sox_dustin_pedroia_052917.jpg

Drellich: After golden 2016, Red Sox remember what it's like to have things go wrong

CHICAGO — More than anything else, Monday’s 5-4 Red Sox loss was a reminder of how much the Red Sox had go right for them a year ago, and just how unrealistic it was to expect so much of it to carry over into 2017.

The Red Sox remain a very good team. But the success of last year’s 93-win team, of any 93-win team is, truly, difficult to replicate. Unlikely, even.

Baseball’s age of parity, the randomness of freak injuries, good old regression — the Sox were due for some elements to catch up to them after a season that was more or less golden in 2016.

Dustin Pedroia, who headed back to Boston on Monday for an MRI on his left wrist, was healthy enough to hit 15 home runs a year ago, his highest total since 2012. The way this year is going for him health-wise, just having him on the field and hitting close to .300 sounds like a worthwhile goal the rest of the way.

(Slides are Pedroia’s enemy, be it from an oncoming base runner, like Manny Machado, or an oncoming first baseman, like Jose Abreu.)

David Price wasn’t living David Price’s best baseball life a year ago. But you know what you can, and probably do, take for granted? He was healthy and devouring innings. He cleared more frames than anyone else in the regular season. Even when he wasn’t pitching well, he could pitch and pitch and pitch. 

Jackie Bradley Jr. had a 1.001 OPS at the end of play on May 29, 2016. His OPS after play May 29, 2017, was .670.

We know how special David Ortiz was. Let’s not go there, because it seems like no one can talk about Ortiz’s absence rationally. His exit did not suck every home run out of the Sox lineup, as many like to say is the case, but he is — of course — a big missing piece.

Not everything was perfect in 2016, lest we remember our ex-girlfriends too fondly. Carson Smith went for Tommy John surgery, for example. 

But look now: Smith still isn’t back, Tyler Thornburg is a mystery if not quiet yet an afterthought and Robbie Ross Jr. not only struggled to the point he was demoted, he’s going through elbow trouble.

Rick Porcello won the American League Cy Young, much to Kate Upton’s chagrin. Porcello will not win the Cy Young this year, if you hadn’t been paying attention, although Chris Sale might.

There’s something going well for the Sox right now: that Sale guy. The bullpen coughed up the game Monday, Matt Barnes in particular. Yet Sox relievers had the fifth best ERA of any team to start the day. 

Hey, Eduardo Rodriguez looks pretty good, doesn't he?

With some downward trends have come some positives. Craig Kimbrel's on another planet.

The Sox may still be a 90-win team. Again, they remain a very good club.

But the wins, the breaks aren’t coming as easily as they did a year ago. You should never have expected they would.