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).”