Melancon making a solid first impression

The Joel Hanrahan trade brought four players to Pittsburgh, but only one secured a spot on the 25-man roster to start the 2013 season.

Stolmy Pimentel, Ivan De Jesus, and Jerry Sands are paying their dues in the minor leagues, while Mark Melancon is proving himself in the Bucco bullpen.

With Hanrahan shipped to Boston and Jason Grilli sliding into the closer role, Melancon stepped in as setup man and is doing a fine job. His game-by-game performance thus far:

Rk Date Opp Rslt Dec IP H R ER BB SO HR ERA BF Pit Str
1 Apr 1 CHC L,1-3 1.0 0 0 0 0 2 0 0.00 4 9 8
2 Apr 4 CHC L,2-3 1.0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0.00 3 11 9
3 Apr 6 @ LAD L,0-1 1.0 2 0 0 0 0 0 0.00 4 10 8
4 Apr 8 @ ARI W,5-3 H(1) 1.0 0 0 0 0 2 0 0.00 3 16 12
5 Apr 9 @ ARI W,6-5 H(2) 1.0 0 0 0 0 1 0 0.00 3 7 6
6 Apr 12 CIN W,6-5 H(3) 1.0 0 0 0 0 1 0 0.00 3 15 9
7 Apr 13 CIN W,3-1 H(4) 1.0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0.00 3 10 8
7.0 2 0 0 0 6 0 0.00 23
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 4/14/2013.

Some notable facts about Melancon’s work this year, as of Saturday, April 13th:

– He has pitched in more games than any other Bucco pitcher, appearing in seven of the first 11 games.

– He’s one of three relievers who have yet to surrender a run. Jason Grilli and Justin Wilson have also held their opponents scoreless.

– Tied with Jared Hughes for fewest hits allowed (2).

– Lowest opponent batting average (.087) and WHIP (0.29) on the club.

– Only Pirate pitcher that hasn’t walked a batter.

– Produced 12 ground ball outs, more than any other relief pitcher.

One of the most impressive parts of Melancon’s pitching thus far has been his ability to quickly retire batters. He’s thrown just 78 pitches in 2013, which equates to about 11 per inning and 3.39 per batter (23 total batters faced) – pretty astounding numbers. The most he’s thrown in an outing was 16 vs. Arizona on April 8th, and his fewest was 7 on the very next night against the D-backs. Melancon has been pounding the zone as well, throwing 60 of 78 pitches for strikes.

When the Bucs were going strong in 2012, their bullpen was tough to beat. If they want to succeed this year, they’ll have to bring the same tenacity and consistency to lock down ballgames. The starters haven’t been able to pitch too deep into ballgames so far, and the bullpen has already been tested. Melancon and Grilli at the backend of the ‘pen, as well as Hughes, Wilson, and Tony Watson through the middle are a big reason why the Pirates have won 5 of 11 games to start the year.

Also, Melancon joined Twitter on Saturday. Be sure to follow him at @Mark_Melancon_.

Go Bucs

Trio of homers propel Bucs to 4-3 victory

The Pirates battled the Boston Red Sox and the rain this afternoon at McKechnie Field. James McDonald took the mound after a weather delay, and got off to a shaky start. He allowed two runs in the first, but settled in after a few innings. J-Mac’s final line: 2 runs, 4 hits, 3 walks, 6 K’s in five innings. Jason Grilli pitched a clean inning in his first appearance back from the World Baseball Classic. Mark Melancon and Chris Leroux pitched scoreless innings as well.

The Bucs relied on a few long balls to beat the Sox. Neil Walker went deep in the second off Clay Buchholz; Gaby Sanchez hit his fourth of the spring – a two-run shot – to give the Pirates the lead in the seventh; Michael McKenry provided some insurance with a dinger in the eighth. They had the bases loaded after The Fort’s home run, but Jared Goedert, Mel Rojas, and Carlos Paulino went down in order.

Boston showed signs of life in the last frame against Bryan Morris. Two quick ground outs were recorded, but Keury De La Cruz’s double and Jeremy Hazelbaker‘s single made it a 4-3 ballgame. Hazelbaker essentially turned his single into a double by stealing second base. However, Morris got Ronald Bermudez to ground out to shortstop to seal the Bucco victory.

The Pirates collected their 10th win in Grapefruit League play. They’re off tomorrow, but will be back in action Wednesday against the Atlanta Braves.

Six more cuts were made this morning, including Gerrit Cole. The club has 49 players left in big league camp.

Go Bucs

Bucs shellacked by Red Sox

The Pirates took on the Red Sox today and took a pretty bad beating. Jameson Taillon made the start and pitched two innings of solid ball. He did give up one run, but also struck out three. After that, it was all downhill for the Bucs pitchers. Jonathan Sanchez gave up four runs in just two-thirds of an inning. He had walked four of five batters at one point, including Lyle Overbay with the bases loaded. Zach Foster replaced Sanchez but gave up five runs himself. Andy Oliver allowed two more later in the game and Tony Watson gave up four in his .2 innings of work.  Just a very ugly game on the mound.

Jared Goedert jacked a three-run homer off of John Lackey in the second and Felix Pie hit a two-run bomb in the fifth for the offense, but six runs wasn’t enough.  Pie is now batting .444 in Spring Training, which is nice to see but also doesn’t mean much yet.  Maybe Pie will be this year’s surprise player who breaks camp with a spot on the Opening Day roster.

Interesting stat from today’s game:

Go Bucs

In 35 Days…

Mark Melancon (35) days until Opening Day.

Melancon comes to Pittsburgh as part of the Joel Hanrahan trade, and looks to thrive as one of Jason Grilli‘s setup men. We named him one of our Pirates to watch in 2013.

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.

[quote_box author=”Ray Searage” profession=”Pirates’ Pitching Coach”]“I said, ‘Dude, whatever you ate today, make sure you eat it the rest of the year. Because you’re on.’ … The fastball is there. It’s got good angle and carry to it. He was spotting up the cutter. The curveball was real, real good. All he’s got to do is trust his stuff … easier said than done, I know.” [/quote_box]

Go Bucs

Joel Hanrahan suits up for Boston

The Red Sox played Northeastern University today in a scrimmage, and former Bucco Joel Hanrahan started on the hill for Boston. He tossed the unofficial first pitch of the year:

He threw 17 pitches, 13 for strikes, and struck out two batters. Here’s what David Ross had to say about the Hammer’s performance:

[quote_box author=”David Ross” profession=”Red Sox Catcher”]“Joel really looked good. I thought Joel’s ball was down, and his fastball was really jumping out of his hand. Early on you don’t want to do anything to speed up the college guys’ bats, but you also want to get work in. It’s kind of a tough thing calling a guy like that, but I thought Joel looked really nice.”[/quote_box]

A quote from Hanrahan, via NESN’s Jenny Dell:

Former FSN Pittsburgh personality Trenni Kusnierek, currently working with CSN New England, provides the classic small-market-to-big-market scenario:

Mike Petraglia of WEEI captured some footage of Hanrahan’s inning of work:

It’s going to be weird seeing Hanrahan, a Bucco fan-favorite, pitching for the Red Sox in 2013. We’ll definitely miss his ninth inning entrance:

Best of luck to him in Beantown.

Jason Grilli takes over the closing duty for the Pirates; there’s only “Jason Grilli” (39) days until Opening Day.