Pirates notebook: Melancon named NL’s top reliever
After leading the majors with 51 saves this season, Pirates closer Mark Melancon on Wednesday won the Trevor Hoffman National League Reliever of the Year Award.
Melancon is the first Pirates pitcher to win the award, which was established in 2005 as the Delivery Man Award. Last year, the award was renamed in honor of Hoffman, a seven-time All-Star.
Andrew Miller of the New York Yankees won the Mariano Rivera American League Reliever of the Year Award.
“This award, to me, means more than just the on-field stuff,” Melancon said. “These guys (Hoffman and Rivera), their names are way bigger than anything they’ve done in baseball. They are tremendous people, and that goes so much further in my book. To be with these guys … is a special, special thing.”
As a rookie with the Yankees in 2009, Melancon took lessons from Rivera, now the all-time saves leader. Also, Hoffman and Melancon both pitched at the University of Arizona.
“It’s an honor for me to hand this award to you,” Hoffman said. “He’s a fellow Wildcat and left school as the single-season save leader and a career save record holder. I’m very proud of his accomplishments this year.”
Over 78 appearances, Melancon went 3-2 with a 2.23 ERA. He converted 51 of 53 save chances for an MLB-best 96.2 save percentage.
“An unbelievable record,” commissioner Rob Manfred said of Melancon’s conversion rate.
After he introduced Melancon, Manfred paused and smiled.
“Did I say he’s from the Pittsburgh Pirates?” Manfred said. “If I didn’t, Frank Coonelly will never forgive me.”
Before Coonelly became Pirates team president in 2007, he worked with Manfred in the commissioner’s office.
One of 12 big leaguers to notch 50-plus saves in a season, Melancon’s total this year tied Rod Beck (1998) for the sixth-highest single-season mark in NL history. Melancon converted 35 straight saves, a club record, from April 23 to Aug. 15.
The Pirates acquired Melancon in December 2012 in a multiplayer trade that sent closer Joel Hanrahan to the Boston Red Sox. Melancon struggled with the Red Sox, notching just one save and putting up a 6.20 ERA and a 1.27 WHIP in 41 outings.
Since taking over the Pirates’ closer’s role on July 24, 2013, Melancon ranks second in the NL with 98 saves.
“I think the lows have been good for my career,” Melancon said. “I’ve learned a lot from those. The last three years have been pretty high.”
Melancon got his 100th save with the Pirates on Sept. 25. Only three other Pirates pitchers — Kent Tekulve (158), Mike Williams (140) and Dave Giusti (133) — reached that mark.
Sporting News stars
Melancon and outfielder Andrew McCutchen were named to The Sporting News’ National League all-star team. Melancon is a first-time winner of the honor.
Washington Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper was the top vote-getter in balloting by 25 NL executives. The Pirates, Arizona Diamondbacks and San Francisco Giants each had two players listed.
Taillon ready for spring
Right-hander Jameson Taillon has recovered from Tommy John and hernia surgeries and is expected to be ready for the start of spring training in mid-February.
“He’s good to go,” farm director Larry Broadway said. “He finished (the Florida Instructional League) totally healthy and was pitching in games there.”
Before he injured his elbow, Taillon was the club’s top pitching prospect. He had reconstructive elbow surgery in April 2014, then had hernia surgery last July.