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If the Red Sox need bullpen reinforcements, Mark Melancon could be the guy

05.07.12 at 9:49 am ET

First things first: As of now, according to a major league source, the Red Sox are not anticipating a move to add another arm to their bullpen. Still, if they alter course and decide to add a pitcher, it would be perfectly understandable.

The Red Sox could use as many rested arms as possible for their bullpen after a devastating stretch of three games — all losses — to the Orioles. In the span of just three games, Red Sox relievers (presuming one does not include the inning of work by Darnell McDonald) accumulated an almost-unfathomable total of 25 2/3 innings. The performances across the relief staff were extraordinary, dramatically exceeding anything for which the team could have hoped even as they ended in disappointment.

Here’s a look at the workload of the relievers over the three-game series:

Scott Atchison: 3 games, 5 2/3 innings, 0 runs, 2 innings on Sunday,

Alfredo Aceves: 2 games, 4 2/3 innings, 0 runs (9 strikeouts!), 2 innings on Sunday

Matt Albers: 2 games, 4 innings, 0 runs, 2 innings on Sunday

Clay Mortensen: 1 game, 3 1/3 innings, 1 run, 0 innings on Sunday

Franklin Morales: 2 games, 2 2/3 innings, 2 earned runs, 2 innings on Sunday

Rich Hill: 2 games, 2 1/3 innings, 0 earned runs, 2 innings on Sunday

Vicente Padilla: 2 games, 1 2/3 innings, 2 runs (1 earned), 1 inning on Sunday

Andrew Miller: 1 game, 1 1/3 innings, 0 runs, 1 1/3 innings on Sunday (3 strikeouts)

The group performed at an extraordinary level during the Orioles series, yet had nothing to show for it, and now, the bullpen is collectively exhausted.

“There were a lot of pitchers used today,” Sox manager Bobby Valentine lamented after Sunday’s 9-6 loss in 17 innings. “I’€™ve got to figure out what to do, and how to get by with all these guys who really did a yeoman’€™s job today.

“Everyone is pitching great. It’€™s just, I don’€™t know if anybody can pitch [Monday],” he added. “I’€™m sure a few of the guys can. I bet you ‘€¦ I’€™ll have enough. Atch will not. A lot of the other guys, I pushed them to the limit tonight. I think every guy. We’€™ll see how they bounce back.”

While the Sox might not make a move, they do have a pitcher in the minors who is performing at a level that suggests he is capable of helping. While Mark Melancon endured historic struggles in his first four outings with the Red Sox, he has been overpowering since heading to Triple-A Pawtucket.

In seven appearances spanning 7 2/3 innings, he has not allowed a run. He’s recorded all of his outs by either strikeout (12) or groundball (11). He has yet to walk a batter. He’s given up six hits — five singles, one double. He’s looked very much like the pitcher whom the Sox thought they were getting in a trade last offseason.

“He’s dominating,” said Will Middlebrooks, who saw most of Melancon’s outings in Triple-A. “It seems like he’s throwing all his pitches for strikes, and when he wants to throw one off the plate for a swing, he’s getting it. He’s got good action on his pitches and it looks like he’s got good velocity. He’s living at the knees or below and he’s getting a lot of swings at his stuff. It shows he’s getting good movement.”

In the majors, Melancon looked shocked by what was transpiring as he allowed 11 runs and five homers in just two innings, leading to a 49.50 ERA. Since getting down to Pawtucket, he appears to have regrouped.

“I feel like he’s probably just gotten more comfortable. When he first got down, he seemed like it was just, ‘What the heck just happened?’ But after a while, our bullpen is a pretty comfortable group. He started joking around, looking comfortable, and now he’s just dealing,” said Clayton Mortensen. “You knew it was going to come down, that the he was going to come down and start shoving. Dude’s got amazing stuff. Give him a second and I’m sure he’ll be back up doing his thing. He’s a good pitcher.

“I don’t know what it was up here,” said Mortensen. “But he’s figured it out down there.”

And so, if the Sox decide to add a pitcher for Monday’s game in Kansas City, Melancon would seem their most likely choice. He’s rested, having thrown just one inning on Saturday and, prior to that, not having thrown since May 2. He’s dominated. He’s on the 40-man roster. The other top alternative on the 40-man, Junichi Tazawa, logged two innings on Sunday.

There would even be an added bonus. If the Red Sox recall Melancon today, then by virtue of the fact that he would be back in the majors within 20 days of having been sent to the minors on April 18, they would avoid burning an option on the pitcher, since a player option is not considered to have been burned if the player is recalled to the big leagues within 20 days of having been sent down. Monday represents the 20th day he’s been in the minors.

Whether it is Monday or some later date, Melancon appears destined for a return to the Red Sox. It is a matter of when not if, and his performance in Pawtucket suggests that the time could be soon.

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