Cherington: Melancon is capable of closing

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Cherington: Melancon is capable of closing

BOSTON Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington believes right-hander Mark Melancon could fill the Red Sox vacant closer role.

Melancon was acquired Wednesday in a trade with the Astros for infielder Jed Lowrie and right-hander Kyle Weiland.

We believe hes definitely capable of closing, capable of pitching in the ninth inning for us, Cherington said. But those are questions that manager Bobby Valentine, and with help from his pitching coach during spring training, will answer and figure out the right roles for everyone.

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. In 15 appearances with the Yankees in 2009 and 2010, over 20 13 innings, he posted a record of 0-1 (4.87).He has appeared in just one game at Fenway Park, on April 26, 2009, when he threw the two scoreless innings of a 4-1 Red Sox win. He is not eligible for arbitration until 2014 and not eligible for free agency until 2017.

Melancon was a ninth-round pick of the Yankees in 2006 out of the University of Arizona. He appeared in a career-high 71 games posting a record of 8-4 with a 2.78 ERA, and led the 56-106 Astros with 20 saves (and five blown saves) last season. He took over the closers role for Houston when Brandon Lyon was injured early in the season, 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). Melancon had a 2.54 strikeouts-per-walks ratio and 1.224 WHIP last season.

According to fangraphs.com, Melancon threw his fastball 52.2 percent of the time last season at an average velocity of 92.8 mph, his curveball 27.5 percent at 82.7 mph, and a changeup 3.1 percent at 84.5. The frequency of those pitches was done last season as he added a cutter to his repertoire for the first time, throwing it 17.2 percent of the time, at 92.1 mph.

We really like his stuff and have liked his stuff back to his college days at Arizona and we feel like the second half of his season he really developed a better feel for his cutter, Cherington said. Hes always had a good curveball. Hes a really aggressive pitcher, tough, confident. We think he has enough intangibles to compete in the American League East. So just felt that he was a really good upgrade to our bullpen.

But at least two major league scouts disagree with Cherington on Melancons ability to close, especially in the division.

Melancon is a solid arm for the back end of the bullpen, but not an AL East closer, said one.

Another was even more emphatic.

No way. No way, said the second. 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.

Cherington has maintained throughout the offseason that he is comfortable going into spring training without a defined closer.

We dont feel its completely necessary, he said. We have in the past done that and theres been other years where we havent. And I think that, as Ive said before, I think wed like to have a closer, a defined closer on Opening Day. And we believe Melancon is fully capable of doing that. Were going to keep working and again as I said Bobby will make those decisions with help from his pitching coach during spring training.

Cherington said he is comfortable with the ninth-inning options he currently has Daniel Bard, Alfredo Aceves, Bobby Jenks, in addition to Melancon but will likely continue to look for upgrades.

We felt like we had some options eve before this trade, some guys that could do it, guys that have done it in the past, guys that we think are ready to do it, perhaps, he said. Melancon certainly adds an important piece and a guy that has done it recently and more recently than anyone else on our roster. So, we feel pretty good about the way the back of the bullpen is shaping up. But theres certainly time between now and spring training and were going to continue to look for ways to make the team better.

Friday, Feb. 24: 'Slap Shot' turns 40

Friday, Feb. 24: 'Slap Shot' turns 40

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading, while always holding a special place in my heart for Dickie Dunn as my favorite "Slap Shot" character. If Dickie Dunn wrote it, then it must be true.

*The ESPN hockey crew puts together some of their best scenes and favorite lines from "Slap Shot" as the movie hits 40 years old. I was first introduced to Slap Shot in my high school years and I liked it for the Hanson Brothers as much as for anything else, but that is a movie that just gets better and better every time I watch it. And I’ve watched it dozens and dozens of times. God bless Paul Newman for agreeing to lend his Hollywood star power to such a crazy, hilarious and raucous love letter to hockey.

*FOH (Friend of Haggs) Brian Wilde is recognizing the limitations of the Canadiens even under new coach Claude Julien.

*Bryan Bickell is stepping even closer to a return to the Carolina Hurricanes as he battles through his MS diagnosis.

*Kevin Shattenkirk apparently turned down a sign-and-trade with the Tampa Bay Lightning this season, and also turned down a chance to get dealt to the Edmonton Oilers last summer as well. I think the Blues D-man has a short list of teams he wants to sign with as a free agent, and neither one of those teams is on the list.

*Darren Dreger weighs in on Shattenkirk as well, and the price tag of a top prospect, first-round pick and NHL player for the puck-moving rental D-man seems very excessive.

*Things are coming to a head with Evander Kane and the Buffalo Sabres as he takes his play to a high level in Buff over the last few months.

*Interesting piece on Ed Snider’s daughter becoming an advocate for medicinal marijuana after his father’s health battles.

*For something completely different: Looks like a new season of "The Voice" coming our way.


 

'Why would the girls be treated any differently than the boys?'

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'Why would the girls be treated any differently than the boys?'

I grew up playing sports. For the most part I played soccer, but I also ran cross-country and track, I skied, snowboarded, and, at one point, I tried gymnastics. (It wasn't pretty.) My two younger sisters did the same. Our parents ran themselves ragged driving us to practices and tournaments, arranging carpools and fundraisers.

It never crossed our minds that we were girls playing sports. It's just what we did. And we loved it!

I didn't realize how lucky I was until visiting my grandparents in rural Ohio one summer. I found an old photo of their high school graduating class. I asked my grandmother what sports she played in school and I'll never forget her answer: "Oh, there were no sports for girls back then. We could cheer for the boys basketball team, but that was it."

I was shocked. I thought that was ridiculous. Why would the girls be treated any differently than the boys? I couldn't comprehend it.

Looking back, I'm so thankful I grew up in a time and environment where that wasn't the case. I can't imagine my life without sports. Not only because it's what I do for a living, but because playing sports throughout my childhood is a big part of what made me the person I am today.

Sports taught me the value of hard work. Being part of a team, I learned how to communicate and work with people to accomplish a common goal . . . and discovered just how gratifying the process can be. I became a teammate and leader who earned respect and empowered others. I made lasting friendships while stuffed like a sardine in a travel van singing Ace of Base at the top of my lungs. I wouldn't trade those experiences for anything. And I certainly wouldn't be in the position I'm in without them.

Don't get me wrong; it hasn't all been positive. Now that I'm a woman working in sports, I've had other kinds of eye-opening moments. During an interview for my first on-air job I was asked, in so many words, if this is really a career for me or if I had other plans after I found a husband. Once I did land a job, I covered many college football games by myself. There was one small school in particular whose players relentlessly catcalled me on the sidelines. I won't repeat the foul things they said, but I can tell you I went home feeling very dirty (and it wasn't because I  was pouring sweat after lugging a camera that weighed half as much as I did from end zone to end zone in the middle of an Alabama summer). Even now, every so often, social media has a special way of reminding me how some people still view women in sports. Surprise -- it's not good.

But if that's the worst I have to go through, I know I can't complain. My only focus is doing my job to the very best of my abilities and working as hard as I possibly can to continue to grow and get better. We've come a long way. I'm so grateful for those who blazed the trail and made it possible for me to do what I do. And, thanks to my grandmother, I will never take my opportunities for granted. My hope is that when my daughter grows up, she will be just as surprised and appalled by some of my bad experiences as I was talking to my grandmother that day.