Mark Melancon Optioned to AAA, Junichi Tazawa Called Up

By Matt Sullivan

There is no way around it. Boston Red Sox reliever Mark Melancon has been awful this season. The former Houston Astros closer was acquired by the Red Sox this off-season to take Daniel Bard’s set up role as Bard moved into the rotation. Thus far he has not even been able to help out in mop up duties for the Red Sox. The righty has a 49.50 ERA after retiring just 6 of the first 18 batters he has faced to start the year and allowing five home runs.

Melancon has not shown any significant loss of velocity or movement on his pitches and there is no reason to believe he is injured, so at this stage mechanical issues are thought to be behind his weak performance. The sinkerball specialist has been leaving a large number of pitches up in the zone and hitters have taken advantage. He was optioned to AAA Pawtucket on Wednesday, following the game against the Texas Rangers where he was unable to get any of the six hitters he faced out, giving up three home runs. He will try to fix his delivery in AAA where there will be less pressure and attention.

Replacing Melancon on the roster is 25 year old Junichi Tazawa. The Japanese righty was a Red Sox top prospect at one point, but he required Tommy surgery in 2010 and missed the majority of 2011 following the operation. Tawaza will get a chance to help the struggling Red Sox bullpen as they enter face the New York Yankees in a three game series over the weekend. If Melancon was the effective pitcher he had been in Houston, Tazawa would be a downgrade, but considering the level of production Boston has been getting from Melancon, the bar is set extremely low for Tazawa. Given the state of the bullpen overall, Tazawa should get a chance to land a permanent role during this call-up.

Since Tazawa has seen so little playing time since his injury, it is hard to say exactly what fans can expect from him. In his previous time in the majors in 2010, he relied on a fastball, a curve, and a change up. He threw the fast around 60% of the time and averaged 91.5 mph with a lot of rise on the pitch. He threw his curve a great as well, using the slow (77 mph)12-6 hook 23% of the time.  His change sees use against both handed hitters, though it is easily his least used offering at just about 7%.

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