|Mark Melancon: I’m on the ‘better side’ of the Red Sox-Yankees rivalry||02.16.12 at 4:35 pm ET|
FORT MYERS, Fla. — Mark Melancon brings a lot to the Red Sox bullpen.
He’s a hard thrower who has experience as a closer. He has played in the baseball’s most-famed rivalry as a member of the 2009 World Champion Yankees. He is articulate, quotable and well-liked everywhere he’s been.
“I got a taste of [winning] in New York and now I’m on the other side, which is just as exciting,” the 26-year-old right-handed Melancon said Thursday at the Red Sox new complex in Fort Myers. “I’m so excited. I’ve been on the other side for so long. It’s bickering back and forth and you hear the differences but you always have respect for your competition. Now I’m on the other side of the fence, which is the better side, so I’m looking forward to it.
“I have all respect for them,” Melancon said of the Yankees. “They’re first class. It’s very similar, actually, in how [both teams] go about things. Winning is a priority and that shows.”
And he can wrestle sharks better than anyone in the majors.
As part of his MLB trip to New Zealand in January to teach an MLB camp to kids, he caught some time with the “Great White” sharks in the ocean with his wife, Mary Catherine.
“Those Great Whites are pretty scary but with that said, it was really neat,” he said. “It was kind of a ‘bucket list’ thing but the whole reason I was down there was to teach camps for New Zealand kids who are just learning baseball. That was just a fabulous experience.
“That was totally me. My wife was right there with me. We had created [a bucket list] all through our relationship. For a wedding gift, she had it written out [in calligraphy] and framed. And one of those things was to go “Great White” shark diving. So, we can cross that off.
“We have the whole gamut on there. We didn’t hold back. Go on a safari. We’ve already hiked the Grand Canyon and biked the most dangerous road in Bolivia. It’s not about thrill-seeking. It’s more about just getting out and making sure we’re active and not sitting on the couch watching TV.”
The Red Sox acquired Melancon from Houston over the winter for Jed Lowrie and pitcher Kyle Weiland. He wound up closing games for the Astros last season when Brandon Lyon had biceps tendon and rotator cuff injuries. He finished with 20 saves and an 8-4 record with a 2.70 ERA in 71 appearances in 2011.
“It’s a different atmosphere for sure, and I’m excited for it,” Melancon said. “Everything I’ve seen is top-notch.”
Melancon will be competing for role of setting up new Sox closer Andrew Bailey, and the Red Sox have delivered a message already to him.
“There’s nothing in concrete,” he said. “They’ve kind of stated… it’s wide open basically. Get after it and make sure you’re ready to go. I don’t know if that spot is wide wide open. I think the back end of the bullpen, seventh and eighth [innings] is wide open. But, I think they signed Andrew for a reason. He’s obviously done well and deserves to be there. I think competition is good and I think everyone would agree with that.”
It was hard for Melancon and the Astros to come to the ball park everyday last year when the team was suffering through a 56-106 season.
“When you lose over 100 games, it’s struggle,” Melancon said. “It’s not necessarily fun to lose like that. Everybody gave it 100 percent, but you show up to the ballpark and you’ve lost six in a row, it’s tough.”
Now he’s back in the AL East with the Yankees and Rays, something he said Thursday he’s ready for again.
“It’s just more cutthroat,” he said. “Everybody has a chance to win and I think the Northeast takes baseball a little more seriously all the way around and that just tends to brings everybody’s excitement level up.”
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