Mark Melancon (35) days until Opening Day.
Three questions about number 35…
1. Can he bounce back from an abysmal 2012? As you’ve probably heard by now, Melancon was terrible for the Red Sox last season. Allowing 11 runs in two April innings earned himself a demotion to Class AAA; he didn’t get along with manager Bobby Valentine, either. Melancon was impressive in September, however, surrendering just one run in 10 innings of work, so it’ll be interesting to see if he can build off that.
2. Will he settle into the eighth inning role? With Grilli filling Hanrahan’s ninth inning void, the Bucs will need someone to hold down the setup job. The club also has Tony Watson and Jared Hughes to split the duties, but Melancon could find his niche in the eighth inning. With a mid-90′s fastball and 12-6 curve among the pitches in his repertoire, he’s capable of striking men out; he’s posted a K/9 rate of 8.0 in his career. He could be a key piece to this year’s squad, and the Bucs may depend on him in the late innings.
3. Can he help justify the Hanrahan trade? Melancon will most likely be the first player from the Hanrahan deal to make an impact. Jerry Sands and Ivan De Jesus are fighting for a job, while Stolmy Pimentel is still in the minors. Melancon should get an opportunity right off the bat, and he’ll be able to show off what he has to offer. He comes a few years younger than the Hammer and at least $6 million cheaper, in addition to possessing multiple years of team control. He’s potentially the most intriguing piece of the Hanrahan package, so we’ll see if the Pirates got a bargain in Melancon.