Eight Minutes With Mark Melancon

I promised that I would post the entire interview I did with Yankees prospect and Trenton Thunder reliever Mark Melancon a couple weeks ago.

So now, in its entirety, is my chat with Melancon, which took place in the Thunder dugout.

Mike Ashmore: The Yankees picked you in the ninth round of the 2006 draft.  Take me back to that day, what was that like for you…

Mark Melancon: “It was exciting.  There was a lot of talk that I might go higher.  I knew that I’d either go real high or fall back because of my arm.  It was both, it was mixed emotions.  Once it was all said and done, I was very happy with what happened.”

Ashmore: Considering that you got picked by the Yankees, and all the history and tradition that comes with that, what did it mean to you to get picked by them?

Melancon: “At first, I thought it might be a slow process of getting to the big leagues.  But after I learned a little more about it, the Yankees had a different mentality.  And obviously we’ve seen that with Joba and Ian and Hughes and some other guys.  It’s the perfect situation.”

Ashmore: What team did you grow up following?

Melancon: “The Rockies.”

Ashmore: Hmmm.  Their pitching has always been…ummm, interesting.  Safe to assume there was nobody there who you really tried to model your game after?

Melancon: “No, and I still don’t.  When a game’s on TV, I like to just watch the pitcher no matter who it is.  I didn’t really have anybody that I really looked up to.”

Ashmore: Tell me about your experience being the closer at Arizona.  It seems like your performance there is what really put you on the map…

Melancon: “I had an unbelievable experience at Arizona.  I’m so happy that I chose school over the draft out of high school.  It was just a phenomenal learning experience for me, and getting out on my own and stuff like that was great.”

Ashmore: For someone who hasn’t seen you pitch before, can you give me a scouting report on yourself in terms of what you throw and your mentality out there?

Melancon: “I have a two-seam fastball, four-seam fastball, curveball, and a changeup that I’m working on now.  I feel a lot more comfortable with it than I did four or five weeks ago.  I’m trying to incorporate all those pitches.  Just kind of a bulldog mentality…I go after guys, and I’m not afraid to come in and locate inside.  That’s kind of my mentality.”

Ashmore: I’m sure I’m not the first person to tell you this, but that curveball you’ve got is pretty nasty.  Is there a certain way that you throw it that makes it so successful, or…

Melancon: “I think my arm speed.  I don’t spike it, it seems like a lot of guys…the new thing to do is spike it (a different way of gripping the pitch).  I never had a feel for that pitch.  When my curveball’s not as good, it’s usually because my arm speed isn’t there.  I tell myself to throw it hard and mimic a fastball arm speed.”

Ashmore: You have a unique delivery as well.  I don’t really know how to describe it, there’s a sort of catapult-like effect to it…it’s long as well.  Has it always been that way?

Melancon: “No, it’s always been over the top.  I don’t know if that’s good or bad, or if it causes deception.  As of now, it doesn’t seem to be too bad, so I’m going to stick with that.”

Ashmore: You’ve always kept your elbow that stiff during your delivery too?

Melancon: “Yeah, I guess.  I don’t know.”

Ashmore: It seems like there’s so many guys who have been through Tommy John surgery these days, but I don’t think a lot of fans really understand what it’s like to have to go through something like that in terms of rehab.  What was a typical day of rehab like for you?

Melancon: “Well, you go through stages.  Every three weeks or something, you progress.  Initially, it’s real slow, but after a few weeks, you really start moving quickly.  Fortunately for me, my rehab went really well.  I didn’t have any setbacks.  I was able to rehab in Arizona with a guy that really knew what he was doing.  I was thankful to come back to the Yankees, and of course they know what they’re doing.  It was actually a very strenuous rehab as far as working an hour and a half every day on the littlest things, just to secure your shoulder and elbow.  It’s obviously something that strengthens your shoulder enough for you to come back throwing harder.”

Ashmore: So do you feel like your velocity is where it was before, or do you feel like you’re throwing harder…

Melancon: “Well, in college, I’d sit 92 or around there.  And that’s where I’m sitting now.  I feel like I wouldn’t get that velocity earlier in the year and now I feel like I’m getting it sooner in the year.  But I still haven’t thrown that many innings in competitive games to know if I’m going to gain more velocity or what.  But as of right now, I’m very happy with my velocity.”

Ashmore: Are you happy with your progress this season?  Did you feel like you’d be here at this point in the season?

Melancon: “Yeah, I was hoping to be up here by this time.  I struggled a little bit early in Tampa, but recovered from that.  That was just a couple location problems.  But other than that, I’ve been pitching OK and hopefully can keep getting better.”

Ashmore: Everybody says stuff like “the next Joba” when it comes to you…again, I’m well aware I’m not the first person to tell you that.  But when people do say that to you, or you do hear that, what comes to mind…

Melancon: “Well, I’m thankful for Joba opening the door.  Him and Ian, proving that young guys can do it.  But at the same time, that’s fine if they compare me to Joba, because that’s a good thing.  He’s doing really well.  I don’t take that to heart as a bad thing.”

Ashmore: One of the big things on prospect websites or in prospect books or magazines is trying to project when a player like yourself is going to get to the big leagues.  Do you have any goals in mind as far as when you’d like to get there?

Melancon: “No, I don’t.  And that’s why I don’t read those magazines, because nobody knows.  If I pitch well, I think I can be there pretty soon.  But it’s all about consistency.  Those things are over my head, I just have to go out there and be consistent.  If I do that, I feel that I have the stuff to be in the big leagues.”

Ashmore: Off the field, what kind of guy are you?

Melancon: “Laid back.  I really enjoy golf.  Pretty low key.”

Ashmore: We’ll end it on a goofy one…percentage of people who mispronounce your last name?

Melancon: “If they don’t know me…ninety-nine percent (laughs).”

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15 Responses to “Eight Minutes With Mark Melancon”

  1. Brandon Says:

    Thanks Mike. good interview, I hope you don’t stop blogging when you get big in the sports media industry.

  2. boreifs Says:

    Good interview, Mike. What is the proper pronunciation? (phonetically speaking, that is) I’m assuming the C is soft.

  3. Piquay Says:

    Fantastic interview, Mike.

  4. JT Says:

    Very nice interview Mike. Melancon has a good head on his shoulders and seems to be a genuinely nice guy from talking to him.

  5. JCinDC Says:

    Nice interview Mike … it’s been about a week since Mark pitched against Altoona … should we be worried?

  6. thunderbaseball Says:

    Thanks to everyone for the kind words.

    Basically, in terms of pronounciation, I just tell people to change the “C” to an “S” and it’s easier to figure out. Me-lann-son.

    He threw around 40 pitches on Tuesday, so I’d imagine you’ll see him either today or tomorrow.

  7. dan Says:

    Thanks for doing this, I really enjoy these interviews. The one-line quotes from newspapers get rather boring, and it seems like these interviews cut down on the overly-cliché portion of most of the things we read.

  8. River Ave. Blues | Z-Mac debuts for Tampa Says:

    […] Ashmore sat down for an interview with Mark Melancon. Don’t miss […]

  9. Jeff Says:

    Great interview. Two thoughts, Melancon only throws 92 mph? I thought he threw harder than that. Not that someone cant be a good closer or reliever at that speed but I thought I read 95 somewhere. Also I noticed he throws alot of innings. I think he has thrown 4 innings in one game twice this season and then 3 1/3 tonight. Is there a reason for that?

  10. thunderbaseball Says:

    Melancon sits at 92, but I had seen him touch 94-95 once…don’t remember which, but I know I wrote it somewhere, probably in the article I did after his first game.

    As for why he pitches a certain amount of innings…my guess is one of two things:

    A) He has to throw a certain amount of pitches, and however long it takes for that to happen, it takes.

    B) If they can only use him every three-four days, they want to get whatever they can out of him.

  11. boreifs Says:

    That 92 is with a two-seamer, Jeff. With the movement he gets on the pitch, that is plenty.

  12. mbn Says:

    Ashmore: So do you feel like your velocity is where it was before, or do you feel like you’re throwing harder…

    Melancon: “Well, in college, I’d sit 92 or around there. And that’s where I’m sitting now. I feel like I wouldn’t get that velocity earlier in the year and now I feel like I’m getting it sooner in the year. But I still haven’t thrown that many innings in competitive games to know if I’m going to gain more velocity or what. But as of right now, I’m very happy with my velocity.”

    This was a key question and answer for me. He feels his velocity is back. That is all I needed to hear. He will be ready soon.

    Great interview. You got a lot of info. without having to ask a zillion questions.

    One thing is puzzling me. We are here at June 2nd, and he is right around 40 innings (combined) for the season, already, between Tampa and Trenton. Seems like a lot for a pen guy. What is the story behind that?

  13. thunderbaseball Says:

    What’s funny about all the compliments on this one is that I wasn’t entirely happy with it as an interview. I think what a lot of people don’t realize is that if I’m sitting down with a guy for a feature, I have an outline of what kind of story I want to write in my mind, and I’m asking specific questions based on that.

    If I were going to do a straight Q&A — which this isn’t, this is more of a look at what you didn’t see make the article and some of what you did — I think the questions would be a lot more wide ranging…

    In terms of his innings pitched…I would pay more attention to the amount of pitches he’s thrown. Now, you’ll likely never find that data anywhere, but I think that’s the key number…from everything I’ve been told, his pitch counts have been very low in his multi-inning outings with the Thunder.

  14. ZonaBaseballer Says:

    Having worked with Mark during his years at Arizona, I can attest that his 92 looks like 98 and it’s heavy. Not to mention he’s a top notch guy. I’m hoping to see him in the bigs soon!

  15. melancon Says:

    to boreifs and thunderbaseball.. the pronouncement of the word melancon is MUH- LAW- SAW trust me i know im a coon ass

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