Yankees Encourage Mark Melancon To Trust His Stuff





TAMPA—The fastball always had more than enough life and the breaking ball had plenty of snap.

Together with a strong desire to compete, 24-year-old righthander Mark Melancon had put himself in position for a callup to the big leagues last year.

But when he got there, the 2006 ninth-rounder from Arizona appeared to add juice to the fastball and more snap to the breaking pitches.

"He tried to take good stuff and make it better," pitching coach Dave Eiland said of Melancon's 13-game stint with the Yankees that covered three separate callups. In that time, he walked 10, hit four batters and uncorked three wild pitches in just 16 innings.

But compare that with 11 walks in 53 Triple-A innings for Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and it's clear Melancon wasn't the same hurler.

"I didn't go out and attack like I did in the minor leagues," Melancon said. "That's one of the biggest things I learned, that you have to attack the hitter. You can't pitch to the names and you can't give them too much credit."

But unless there are several injuries this spring, Melancon has very little chance of heading north with the big league team.

The loser of the Phil Hughes-Joba Chamberlain fight for the No. 5 starter spot will land in the pen. Chan Ho Park was added after camp opened and joined a crowded relief corps that included Alfredo Aceves, Chad Gaudin, Boone Logan, Damaso Marte, Sergio Mitre and David Robertson.

Yet, Melancon had blinders on during the early days of camp.

"I haven't concerned myself as far as a job," he said. "We all know how many transactions there are (during the season). If I pitch to my capability, it will be okay."

Eiland doesn't believe Melancon has fallen off the screen.

"He has thrown very well in the minor leagues and has good stuff," Eiland said. "He still takes good stuff to the mound and can get guys out."

YANKEE DOODLES

• Oft-injured but talented righthander Christian Garcia experienced right elbow soreness in the first week of camp. Garcia spent two stints on the disabled list last year, making just five starts for Double-A Trenton, and also missed the entire 2008 season.

• The Yankees signed free agent outfielder and former Tiger Marcus Thames to a minor league deal. Originally signed by New York in 1997, the righthanded slugger could add balance to a lefty-heavy lineup. Thames, 32, has hit .256/.329/.516 versus lefties for his career.