The Braves’ eventful trade deadline brought in three right-handers with closing experience, one of whom who was an All-Star last month. It didn’t take long for the team to make a change.
Shane Greene, who converted 22 of 25 save opportunities with the Tigers, has began his Braves tenure sluggishly. As a result, the team will turn to Mark Melancon as its primary ninth-inning option.
“He had 51 saves a few years ago,” manager Brian Snitker said. “He’s been through the wars. Nothing is going to faze him. He’s been a reliable pitcher for a long, long time. So from playing against him and seeing how he prepares, he’s just been really good for a long time.”
The trio of newcomers appeared in Friday’s win over Miami. Chris Martin opened the eighth, walking a batter and allowing a pair of singles. Martin registered two outs before Greene replaced him.
Starlin Castro singled off Greene to plate another run. Martin was charged all three runs in the inning, a frame in which the Marlins pulled within 6-4 before Ronald Acuna homered in the ninth to expand the lead again.
It was Greene’s first scoreless outing with the Braves, since the run was charged to Martin. Greene, an All-Star who was among the deadline’s most sought-after players, had allowed five runs in his first three innings with his new club.
The Braves planned for Greene to close Friday, but Martin’s inability required an early entry. Melancon pitched a scoreless ninth and was named the primary closer following the game.
“We have three of them – four of them, we have four or five guys down there (who can close),” Snitker said. “It’s also going to depend on matchups and hopefully guys need days off and we have guys to turn to. Hopefully we get hot enough to where we need them all.”
Melancon, 34, has recorded 3-1/3 scoreless innings in four appearances with the Braves. The team acquired him from San Francisco at a marginal cost due to his $14 million price tag in 2020, but he boasts a resume unmatchable in the Braves’ bullpen.
As Snitker said, Melancon recorded 51 saves with the Pirates in 2015. He’s notched four seasons with 30-plus saves, and seven seasons with 16 or more finishes. He’s had five seasons in which he’s exceeded 70 innings (he’s at 49-2/3 this year).
“He’s good,” catcher Tyler Flowers said. “He’s got the ability to throw both his pitches on both sides of the plate at any time. It’s pretty neat to have a guy who has that kind of command, front-door in curveballs with two strikes, backdoor in cutters, throwing cutters up and in, down and away. It’s what I expected but I’d say it’s a little better than I expected.”
Melancon was initially named a middle-relief option when acquired, with Martin pitching the eighth and Greene handling the ninth. The trio was acquired to make a difference in the postseason, so the Braves have time to help them rekindle their past performances.
But Melancon provides the “safest” option right now. He’s been the clear best of the three and Snitker, who puts ample value in a player’s history, likely sees Melancon as the arm he trusts most. As is usually the case, the situation is fluid. For now, Melancon will get the majority of calls in the final inning.
“He’s been through a lot in his career, so I don’t think any of the moments will get to him,” Flowers said. “Success or failure, I don’t think it’s something that’ll carry over. He’s been in that role. He’s had a lot of success in it. I think he understands himself really well and knows what he needs to do to execute pitches. When you do that, you typically get guys out.”
Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.
Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.