Melancon Has But One Step To Conquer

Melancon struck out three more batters on Wed.

Despite only having pitched eight professional innings prior to 2008, Mark Melancon entered the season ranked as one of the top ten Yankees prospects. Thanks to his performance this year, he keeps moving up the charts in the farm system.

"Most people say that your first season is all about coming back healthy and making sure nothing goes wrong," said Melancon. "I never really rate my season because I expect it to go right. My goal has always been to keep moving up, staying consistent, and keep getting better and better.

"Health and energy wise, I feel fine. It's partly due because I've had rest after every outing. My outings have been separated and spaced out, and that's helped give me longevity this season. At the same time, I rehabbed at the start of the year and that helped strengthen me and prepare me."

Melancon added that the numbers he's posted this season have definitely helped raise his confidence.

In 91.2 innings split between Tampa, Trenton and Scranton entering Wednesday night's game, the right-hander posted a 2.26 ERA and averaged 8.2 strikeouts-per-nine innings. Amazingly, he only allowed 65 hits on the year and opponents are hitting a paltry .199 against him.

"I'm comfortable," he said. "It's the game really that you are competing against as far as getting strike one and getting the first out. Location is always the key, and I've maintained my approach on the mound. I've tried to stay consistent with my mechanics and keep the ball down.

"I've learned that its not who you are playing, it's the game of baseball that you are playing against. It's not about who is up to bat, it's what you do and what you control - that is the key to success," Melancon added.

Melancon also credits the organizational pitching coaches with helping him sort out any trouble he encountered on the mound.

"I've got to give a lot of thanks to every pitching coach I've had in this organization. They are really good and I'm not just saying that to say it.

"I've learned from them at every step of the way and it seems like every time I do struggle or have something I need to work on, someone is there to give me guidance. They'll give me ideas, but ultimately, they help me teach myself how to improve."

With only three games left in the regular season, Melancon has shown that he can handle pitching again, and should be a major component in the bullpen next spring.

Although the Yankees have not approached him about playing offseason baseball yet, the pitcher plans on spending the majority of his winter working out in Tampa.

Winter plans are not really on Melancon's mind right now, however. The 23 year-old will be relied upon to help carry the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre bullpen in the playoffs.

"Everybody talks about experience and it always helps," Melancon said of postseason experience, "It's good to have it when you are in a big situation, but I think poise, confidence and an aggressive attitude are also extremely important."

He will likely serve as the setup man for closer Scott Strickland in the International League playoffs, and with a strong performance, the Yankees may give Melancon that much anticipated promotion.

According to Melancon, the Yankees have yet to mention anything regarding a September call-up.

"It's definitely a goal, and it is definitely reachable," he added.

At the start of the season, question marks surrounded Mark Melancon, and he was one of the hottest topics among Yankee fans. Now, with the season coming to an end, he has proven that he can handle pitching again and the only stop left is the Bronx.

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