PAWTUCKET, R.I. — Was Mark Melancon's disastrous start due to bad pitch location or a lack of confidence?
One of Boston GM Ben Cherington's biggest offseason acquisitions, Melancon surrendered 11 earned runs (49.50 ERA) on 10 hits, including five home runs, in his first four outings this season.
Boston had seen enough.
Melancon, who saved 20 games with a 2.78 ERA in 71 relief appearances for the Houston Astros last season, was demoted to Triple-A Pawtucket to figure out what was wrong.
"My mind, my attitude, my aggressiveness, those are things that needed to change," Melancon said, sitting in the home dugout at Pawtucket's McCoy Stadium on Wednesday. "More my aggressiveness than anything."
Mind? Attitude? Sounds like there might be a confidence issue, raising the obvious question: Is Melancon tough enough mentally to pitch in Boston.
Well, New York Daily News columnist Bill Madden recently wrote, "How did Cherington not know what the Yankees, who originally signed Melancon, told everyone who ever asked about him — that the kid had good stuff but a very delicate psyche not fit for pressure cooker environments like the AL East?"
The Eagle-Tribune asked Melancon about that.
"I don't see that at all," Melancon replied, adding he would need the Yankees to clarify why they thought that way about him.
Melancon, who has been brilliant for Pawtucket, isn't the only Sox reliever to start this season poorly.
Entering Thursday's game, Red Sox relievers had combined for a 7.19 ERA in 51 1/3 innings and opposing hitters were batting .318 against them.
With that said, Melancon obviously still is an important piece to this team. The Red Sox need him to pitch like the setup man they thought they were acquiring last December for shortstop Jed Lowrie and pitcher Kyle Weiland.
Cherington and the Red Sox obviously believed Melancon would be a capable setup man, allowing Daniel Bard to make the transition to the starting rotation without downgrading the bullpen.