What's Up With Mark Melancon?

Boston Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine takes the ball from relief pitcher Mark Melancon during the ninth inning against the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park. Detorit won 3-2. (Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-US PRESSWIRE)

Don't take the headline to mean that we're all worried about Mark Melancon's single inning with the Red Sox this year. (You can put away those return-to-sender boxes addressed to Houston.) He's pitched poorly, for sure, but it's one inning. The Red Sox's newest high-leverage right-hander Melancon has faced eight batters, struck out none of them, and given up four runs and five hits. Though it takes a team to lose, he's had two of the three losses pinned on him thanks to his performance. It's been awful, but, to repeat: one inning. Make a list of all of the pitchers who produced inning-long stretches that awful in 2011, and you'll get bored before you finish reading a fraction of it.

But we do have something to watch for, based off of his spring and performance so far. Melancon is an extreme groundball pitcher who also strikes out hitters at a well above-average rate. He's been anything but in his short career with the Red Sox, though, as he had more flyball outs than groundball outs in his spring, and didn't induce grounders this weekend.

We're talking about just under 11 innings, with almost all of those coming in games that didn't count. As soon as tonight, Melancon's sinker and cutter could do what they're supposed to, and we'll forget all about this past weekend. But keep an eye on whether or not he's getting opponents to hit grounders for the next few weeks, as if the ball is in the air, and stays there, then something might be off with Melancon.

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