HOUSTON — Red Sox reliever Mark Melancon had the honor of playing for the MLB All-Stars during a trip to Taiwan last month that featured five games against the Chinese Taipei national team.
Melancon, 26, earned a save over two scoreless innings in two appearances and was part of Major League Baseball’s effort to showcase the sport to a country filled with strong passion.
The young right-hander returned home with a collection of memories and took pride in how the fans embraced the big leaguers during their tour of New Taipei City, Taichung and Kaohsiung.
“When you get asked to be a part of something like that, it’s a real thrill,” Melancon said. “To go over there and represent the United States with honor was so neat and so special. The Chinese Taipei squad was comprised of solid up-and-coming talent.
“It was fun to see a different culture. I was actually over there in 2005 with Team USA while in college. The people are real nice. We were treated like heroes. Baseball is such a big part of the culture over there. It was an honor for me to be part of that.”
Furthermore, Melancon assisted with teaching and providing instruction for MLB youth clinics held in Hong Kong, Beijing and Taiwan.
“In Taiwan, every one of us took the time to teach kids on the field,” Melancon said. “I did a pitching clinic there. Then, I got asked to go to China. I was in Taiwan for around seven days and in China for six or seven days. I got to visit several great cities and teach a few camps, as well as give some pitching clinics.”
Melancon honorably represented the Astros organization.
However, it’s been an interesting offseason for the late-inning reliever, as he was traded to Boston on Dec. 14 in exchange for shortstop Jed Lowrie and young right-handed pitcher Kyle Weiland.
Although Melancon was looking forward to closing games for Houston in 2012 and being part of the team’s final season in the National League, he understands the business aspect of the game and welcomes the next chapter in his major league career.
Melancon went 8-4 with a 2.78 ERA and 20 saves over 74 1/3 innings in 71 appearances for the Astros during the 2011 campaign.
He would like to continue evolving into a closer at the major league level, but will do anything asked of him by manager Bobby Valentine.
“It was so much fun to be in the closer’s role with the Astros,” Melancon said. “When I was a little kid, it was never my goal to be a closer. Since I started closing in college, it became my goal to one day close in the major leagues. It was really unfortunate the way it went down last season when Brandon Lyon got injured. You never want to see that happen. I do enjoy closing. I would like to be in that role moving forward and do better than last year. It is my goal to help the team win.”
With Melancon moving on to Boston and Lyon attempting to bounce back from season-ending surgery, Houston will enter Spring Training with several question marks regarding their bullpen.
Melancon believes the situation will work itself out.
“The Astros are young in the bullpen,” he said. “There were a lot of ups and downs last season. Fernando Rodriguez and David Carpenter are guys who can really do a great job and help the ballclub. Wilton Lopez is a great option. Juan Abreu has a strong arm. There are guys who definitely have talent. I expect other guys to step up and execute. The bullpen knows what is expected from them. There’s still a lot of work, but the core of relievers has the potential to help the Astros perform well.”
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