Mark Melancon Experimenting With New Vulcan Changeup, Says Progress Is Coming After Monday’s Struggles

Mark Melancon Experimenting With New Vulcan Changeup, Says Progress Is Coming After Monday's StrugglesFORT MYERS, Fla. –– Mark Melancon is in experimenting mode. And no, he’s not referring to his transition from Houston to Boston.

Since the beginning of spring training, the Red Sox pitcher –– and former Astros hurler –– has tried to master a new changeup. Instead of leaning on the traditional pitch, Melancon is testing a Vulcan changeup.

“That’s coming,” Melancon said after Monday’s 8-4 loss. “I was really working on it hard, hard, hard, and then I stopped a little bit and worked on my curveball. Curveball I know it’s going to come, so I don’t worry about it.

“The changeup, I’m learning it. I’m putting a lot of emphasis on it. I felt like I had the changeup, but now it’s not as good as I want it to be.”

The idea was Melancon’s from the start. For a reliever with a variety of fastballs, he wanted to add more to his repertoire. Similarly to the grip of splitter, Melancon’s Vulcan changeup rests in between the middle and ring fingers, forming a “V” shape.

He took another stab at improving the changeup Monday against the Twins, but he didn’t receive the ideal results. In one inning of work –– and against seven batters –– Melancon yielded three hits, three earned runs and one walk.

Changeup aside, the 26-year-old reliever didn’t achieve his intended results with all his pitches against Minnesota, and Red Sox skipper Bobby Valentine took note.

“I thought he backed up the bases pretty well, he had that down,” Valentine joked. “… Now he has to be able to have that downward plane, as we say, that I don’t think he has really consistently had this spring. His fastball seemed to be flat from my angle where he usually does this and that. He’ll climb the ladder, throw high, but it’ll be a purpose high, a high pitch that rides out of the zone, not a flat pitch that’s high.”

Like most hurlers this time of year, Melancon said he’s trying regain the feel for his pitches. In his case, the familiarities with them all come at different speeds. When one pitch develops, another regresses.

That was the recent scenario with his curveball and changeup. Even as Melancon has adapted to the grip of the Vulcan changeup, he still unleashes his traditional one from time to time.

Heading into his first season in Boston, Melancon wants to have as many weapons in his pitching arsenal as possible.

“I can go back to my other changeup,” the reliever said. “But I think as a reliever, if you throw too many pitches –– I don’t want to get away from not throwing strikes with my top two or three pitches. I’m trying to throw strikes with my fourth or fifth.”

But if the Vulcan isn’t ready to fly in the regular season, Melancon plans to bide his time.

Have a question for Didier Morais? Send it to him via Twitter at @DidierMorais or send it here. He will pick a few questions to answer every week for his mailbag.

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