Newly acquired Melancon settles in with NL East-leading Nats
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) Mark Melancon sat patiently as his name circulated in rumors leading up to the trade deadline.
''I've been through it before, so I realize that until it happens it's not a big deal,'' Melancon said. ''I just waited until I got the phone call.''
The call finally came on Saturday, and he was no longer the closer for the Pittsburgh Pirates. Instead, the All-Star was joining the NL East-leading Washington Nationals.
By Sunday, Melancon had joined his new team for a game in San Francisco.
''A lot of different emotions going on just because I've been with the Pirates for a while,'' said Melancon, who was in his fourth year with Pittsburgh. ''It's a little sad to leave those guys, but at the same time I'm really excited to be here on a first-place club.''
Washington sent reliever Felipe Rivero and pitching prospect Taylor Hearn to the Pittsburgh Pirates to acquire Melancon, who supplants the struggling Jonathan Papelbon as Washington's closer.
Melancon exchanged text messages with Papelbon on Saturday while he was between flights.
Papelbon is 2-4 with a 4.41 ERA and has allowed eight runs and seven hits in his past three outings.
''He's been awesome about it,'' Melancon said. ''It's a tough situation, so I understand . Like he said, `we're here to win a championship, whatever it takes.'''
The deal reunites Melancon with his Team USA teammate Max Scherzer. He also works out with Anthony Rendon in the offseason.
The 31-year-old right-hander goes from the fringe of the wild-card race to a team that's building a nice lead in its division.
''It gives you a nice little boost, I know that,'' Melancon said. ''For me it was really exciting. Whirlwind of a day yesterday, but I'm here and everything's great.''
Melancon has converted 30 of 33 saves with a 1.51 ERA this season. He joins his fifth organization in eight years.
He is making $9.65 million and is eligible for free agency after the World Series; as part of the swap, the Pirates will pay Washington $500,000 on Sept. 1.
Melancon broke into the majors in 2009 with the Yankees, where he was considered a possible successor to Mariano Rivera. He also pitched for Houston, Boston and the Yankees.
He credits the famed Yankees closer with helping him develop the cut fastball that he considers his best pitch.
''I got to watch that a lot from (Rivera),'' Melancon said. ''Just sit behind the plate, sit behind him pitching. Not only did I notice how important the cutter and the movement, when to throw it in and back door and all that stuff but just his location and how important that was. With him only having one pitch it meant a lot that he hit his spots, so I picked up a lot on those subtleties.''