BOSTON — First, Mark Melancon lost his late-inning bullpen duties. Now, the reliever has been demoted to Triple-A Pawtucket.
After hinting at the possibility of a move after Tuesday's 18-3 loss against the Rangers, Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine confirmed the demotion before Wednesday's game and said the team would recall reliever Junichi Tazawa in his absence.
"Mark just has to be the pitcher that he is," Valentine said. "He's struggling with his command. He's a great command pitcher. Thus far, he hasn't had it. Don't feel he'd really have the opportunity here to work through it. He was anxious to get an opportunity to work more regularly to get back to where he belongs."
When Boston traded Jed Lowrie to Houston for Melancon, it was expected to bolster the back of the bullpen. Instead, the 27-year-old has regressed, surrendering runs in each of his four outings this season.
The issues stem from spring training, when the pitcher posted a 5.59 ERA. At that point, Valentine still had confidence in Melancon.
"He was so close I thought," Valentine said. "I thought as we talked together, his last three outings were, none of them were as clean as we really wanted, as he really wanted. Two of the hitters, if he faced three, two of the three, he was throwing the ball right where he wanted. Never quite had the perfect outing. Hopefully he’ll have a few of those and put them under his belt and move on.”
Through two innings in 2012, Melancon has already yielded five home runs, tying the total that he surrendered in 74 1/3 frames throughout the entire 2011 season as the Astros' closer.
During his relief spot against Texas, Melancon allowed all six batters that he faced to reach base. By surrendering homers to Josh Hamilton, Adrian Beltre and Nelson Cruz — and six earned runs — Melancon's ERA is 49.50.