Last season, when Astros closer Brandon Lyon suffered an injury and underwent shoulder surgery, Melancon –– then in his first full year with the team –– stepped in and converted 20 saves in 25 chances.
A similar scenario has unfolded once again. With Andrew Bailey scheduled to undergo thumb surgery and miss a few months, Melancon and Alfredo Aceves will likely be tapped to close the door for the Red Sox in Boston.
Bobby Valentine hasn't designated a primary closer yet. But if the Red Sox manager calls upon Melancon, the 27-year-old believes he's prepared to fill that role.
"I'm ready, yeah," Melancon said with a smile. "I came into spring training knowing that I would be somewhere in that bullpen. I'm ready."
Heading into the spring, Aceves was ready to be a starter. But now, the 29-year-old is primed for a 360-degree transition to the other side of the pitching spectrum, where he'll be closing games instead of starting them.
Just like he proved last September, the versatile pitcher reiterated that he could adapt to fill Boston's vacancies.
"I can pitch in any situation," Aceves said. "The only thing that changes is the quantity of pitches. Instead of throwing 100 pitches, I may only be tossing 20. That's the only difference for me."
Vicente Padilla may be a sleeper candidate to close for the Sox. During his stints with the Phillies, Diamondbacks and most recently the Dodgers, Padilla had experience as a closer, tallying five saves. He went 3-for-3 in saves last season in Los Angeles.
"Vicente is another guy that — I don't think he's quite as versatile as Aceves, but he's along those lines," Pitching coach Bob McClure said. "Pitch middle, spot-start, close. To me, he's a valuable kind of guy with experience and with an edge to him."
Although relieving isn't his ideal role, the 34-year-old said he wouldn’t be fazed by the pressure.
"The only thing I know is to work hard and be ready," Padilla said. "I tried to be a starter, I couldn't. If they want me to be a reliever and close, I'll do what's needed of me. I think the pressure in Los Angeles prepared me."
Closing in Houston wasn't pressure-packed for Melancon, considering the Astros finished with the worst record in Major League Baseball in 2011. But he anticipates a sweeter experience in Boston.
"It'll be a lot more fun," Melancon said. "I'm looking forward to it."
Regardless of who closes, Melancon, Aceves and Padilla are seasoned in case they are tossed into the fire.
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