Mark Melancon's ERA prior to Tuesday night's game with the Texas Ranger was a season-low 22.00. But following the 18-3 shellacking, that number ballooned to a gaudy 49.50 on the season.
A talented reliever and someone who finished off 20 of 25 save opportunities with the Houston Astros in 2011, Melancon has the talent to be a successful pitcher for the Red Sox this season and well into the future. Sadly, though, right now, something just isn't quite clicking for the right-hander.
On Tuesday night, Melancon faced five batters in the eighth inning, throwing 26 pitches — 13 of them for strikes. Good numbers overall, but when you consider the other numbers on his scorecard, the outing becomes a lot less appealing. Melancon allowed four hits and six runs while retiring none in the inning.
The most striking number of all was the three home runs that Melancon allowed, giving him five on the season, which ties his combined total from 71 appearances in 2011.
The righty's unsavory outing caused a near-speechless Bobby Valentine to outwardly consider other options for Melancon in the near future.
"At this time, you have to consider everything," Valentine said when asked after the game if Melancon could be optioned to Triple-A Pawtucket to work on his mechanics.
There must be something going severely wrong with Melancon's delivery, because the same guy who posted a 2.78 ERA over 74 1/3 innings in 2011 has now allowed 11 earned runs in just two innings of work and sits at the bottom of the league in the category.
The same talented pitcher who excelled over the past few seasons in Houston is still in there somewhere, but it's likely going to take some time down in the minors for Melancon to re-discover that form.
As for a useful replacement, Aaron Cook would appear to be the most likely guy for the Red Sox if Melancon is optioned to Pawtucket. Cook has been outstanding in two outings in the minors so far this year, allowing just two earned runs in 12 innings and striking out seven while walking just three.
Cook was phenomenal during spring training, but Boston had a strong camp from a number of pitchers, and Cook found himself the odd man out when it was all decided. Now, after proving himself for a few weeks in the minors, it could be the perfect time to promote the 33-year-old right-hander.
A demotion for Melancon shouldn't be taken as a negative sign by the righty or the fans of Red Sox Nation. Rather, it could be viewed as an opportunity for growth.
Melancon has the skills to be a major factor out of the Boston bullpen, but first, he needs to have the patience to regain his confidence.
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