Melancon In Attack Mode

Melancon In Attack Mode

SCRANTON, PA - Before each season, Scranton/Wilkes-Barre reliever Mark Melancon organizes a list of goals that he hopes to accomplish during the upcoming year. On top of developing a better command of his pitches, there's one goal that topped his to-do list this year– to get after it.

"One of my main goals was to just go after guys, no matter who's up to the plate," said the fourth year pro. "I kind of have that mentality that I'm better than you - that was the biggest one."

Thus far, he's been just that. Through Friday, the Golden, Colorado native has been nearly unhittable. In his ten appearances, he's held opponents to a measly .228 average while going 4-0 and capturing three saves. He's also sporting a barely visible 1.76 ERA, the lowest of his career.

It's a start that Melancon credits to his undeterred focus.

"As soon as I come into the clubhouse, I start that focus, and then it gets more intense as soon as I get on the field," said Melancon. "As soon as I cross those lines, I make sure nothing during the day has affected me to not perform in the way I want to."

That focus is what got him his first shot at the big leagues this time last year – a two-inning scoreless effort against the Boston Red Sox.

"It was complete focus," said the University of Arizona alum. "I'd say I'm always focused out there, but it was a whole new level of focus, it's just something you can't really explain. It's just like tunnel vision, it's a night I will never forget for sure."

Last year was expected to be the breakthrough year for Melancon – the year he would show off the stuff that had scouts gushing.

In the beginning of the season, Melancon confirmed exactly why he was named the ninth best prospect within the Yankees organization. He was accurate, overpowering, and virtually unhittable.

Over his first six appearances for Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, he tossed eleven scoreless innings, struck out 17, and walked just three batters.

That dominance led to the call up on April 25th, but his first few major league outings were not what he had planned them to be. After the promising debut, Melancon failed to demonstrate the same stuff he had shown in Triple-A, and was sent back down after a few shaky appearances.

"Nerves played little bit of it," said Melancon. "It was a big change. That was in the past, and I know what to expect now. I wish it wouldn't of affected me at all, but it did affect me a little bit. I'm excited to get back, and I'm going to be in attack mode."

"Not everyone is able to make a jump from Triple-A and go up and dominate," said pitching coach Scott Aldred. "It takes time to get your feet under you and get comfortable in that environment."

After coming into the spring battling for a spot in the New York bullpen, Melancon wound up starting the season in Scranton/Wilkes-Barre – a move he didn't necessarily want, but one he has taken advantage of.

"I'd be lying if I said no [it wasn't disappointing]," said Melancon. "But that doesn't mean I can't keep working harder and keep getting after it like I normally do. I'm doing what I can here, and hopefully it pans out in the end."

Melancon dedicated his spring to gaining better control of his fastball, one of the main reasons he feels like he wasn't as successful in his first go-round in the big leagues. He also used the time to develop his changeup, a pitch he began working more heavily into his repertoire last season.

"My changeup really came on strong last year and I really continue to develop it," said Melancon. "I'm to the point now where I use it almost as equal as I use my curveball as far as second pitch."

"His changeup is ready," said Aldred. "He uses it with confidence. The shape and speed are good, so it gives him two quality off-speed pitches to go to."

During his time in New York Melancon did get some time to take in a few pointers from one of the best closers in the majors.

"One of the things I learned from Mariano [Rivera] was reading hitters during the at-bat," said Melancon. "He is so good at that, it's fun to listen to while you're in the bullpen.

"It jumps out at me the way he can read those guys, and I've been doing that down here now. It's amazing how much you can learn just by watching an at-bat before you get out there."

Melancon felt as though he let his guard down when he got his shot at the big leagues. But those stints did give him the assurance needed to prove to himself he belonged in the majors.

"It definitely gives me confidence and I know I can pitch at that level. What I learned last year was that I always have to be in attack mode, and as soon as you let that guard down, you get burned. So when I get back, it's going to be a lot of fun and I'll have a lot of confidence."

When exactly that happens remains to be seen. But if he continues on the torrid pace he's gotten off too, it won't be much longer.

"He's just got to continue to pitch well here and make the most of his next opportunity there," said Aldred. "His stuff's there, it's just a matter of time for him, and I think he'll make it back."

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