PAWTUCKET — On paper, there appears a surefire remedy to put struggling reliever Mark Melancon – viewed as one the key moves Ben Cherington made during his first offseason as Boston’s general manager – back together.
Fans will undoubtedly cringe when they hold Melancon’s cover-your-eyes 49.50 ERA up to the light, knowing full well the 27-year-old’s inability to get anyone out played a huge part in the big-league club demoting the struggling pitcher to Pawtucket. Yet what gets lost in shuffle is that Melancon was not pitching on a regular basis.
Melancon made four appearances with the Sox, each one coming three or more days apart. Granted there are off-days to factor in, but it seemed that when he pitched poorly, Melancon had little choice but to sit around and think about what went wrong instead of getting back out there right away. By deploying Melancon on such an infrequent basis, BoSox manager Bobby Valentine was saying without actually issuing a statement that he had lost confidence in him.
As PawSox manager Arnie Beyeler noted Friday about his newest arrival, Melancon will get plenty of chances to work his way out of his current rut.
"Down here, when it’s time for guys to pitch, they’ll pitch. That game doesn’t work that way up there [in the bigs],” said Beyeler. “We want to get him consistent and to the point where they [meaning the parent club] can count on him to come in and get some guys out.”
For his part, Melancon understands why he lost favor with Valentine. He’s also looking forward to ironing out the kinks in a pressure-free atmosphere.
“I’m just excited to go out there and throw strikes and get outs and kind of get on a roll,” said the soft-spoken Melancon. “I haven’t been able to do that yet.
“Obviously there was disappointment. At the same time, you have to take it as a positive and use it to your benefit,” Melancon continued, the topic turning to his reaction upon being informed that Boston was jettisoning him to the minors.
The announcement was made Wednesday, one day after Melancon was undone by the gopher ball against the Texas Rangers. He faced six batters and did not record a single out, surrendering three home runs while walking two.
Asked to pinpoint what exactly plagued him during his short and not so sweet stint with Boston, Melancon replied, “It was a little bit of everything as far as mechanics … not pitching inside, pitch selection, location.”
Beyeler didn't waste any time in putting Melancon to work. He pitched a scoreless ninth inning of Pawtucket’s 15-10 win against Durham Friday, striking out two while working around a hit batsman and a single.
In Melancon’s eyes, Friday was a major step in the right direction.
“It’s one outing that I needed and from there I need to continue to grow,” he said. “Obviously I need to work hard each and every outing, but getting one under my belt helps immensely.”
The Red Sox told Melancon that he did not have to report to Pawtucket until Friday. Such news gave him the luxury of two consecutive off-days, ones that afforded him a chance to take a deep breath before officially embarking upon his redemption tour.
“I was able to clear my head,” Melancon noted.
Added Beyeler, “He wants to come down here, get better, get some command back and figure some things out. Whether you’re talking about hitters or pitchers, confidence is a big deal with these guys. When you’re not getting any guys out, it’s tough to go out there and be confident in what you’re doing.
“I joked with Mark that he wasn’t going to join us in Syracuse,” Beyeler said. “He was able to get away and spend time with his family before getting back after it.”
If the Red Sox have a plan in terms of how many Class AAA outings they want Melancon to get under his belt before deciding whether to re-call him, the team is keeping that information under wraps.
“All they said was to do what I can and hopefully it won’t be long,” Melancon said.
Beyeler recalls seeing Melancon during the 2006 Hawaii Baseball League. Their paths crossed again in 2008 with Melancon toiling in Trenton, the Double-A affiliate of the Yankees, and Beyeler managing in Portland. Needless to say, Beyeler is confident that Melancon can turn things around.
“He’s got real good stuff,” the PawSox skipper noted. “He just needs to get some confidence and get rolling again. Once his stuff comes back, he’ll be able to get guys out.”