BOSTON -- When Andrew Bailey went down with a right thumb injury that could keep him sidelined until the All-Star break, Mark Melancon was in consideration for the Red Sox's closer job. Now he could be on his way to Triple-A Pawtucket following an 18-3 loss to the Rangers on Tuesday night.
Melancon (0-2, 49.50 ERA) has an option year remaining, and the Red Sox could choose to spend it to help the 27-year-old right-hander get back on track. In four appearances, the last two in no-pressure situations, Melancon's recorded six outs and given up 11 runs, five of them homers. He's a long way away from even the setup role Boston once envisioned.
"He's really concerned. I'm very concerned, obviously," manager Bobby Valentine said. "He's not getting the swing and miss. It seems like he's a little -- he's searching right now, and so are we. It's tough when you don't pitch in a regular basis, and I was hoping the two innings tonight could maybe straighten him out. At this time, you have to consider everything."
Three of those home runs Melancon's allowed came Tuesday at Fenway Park. Josh Hamilton, Adrian Beltre and Nelson Cruz each had one off him -- the first two on consecutive pitches.
Asked how he would feel about being sent down, Melancon was unsure. He was waiting for reporters when the clubhouse opened after the game Tuesday, and he calmly and patiently answered everything.
"I don't know how to answer that," said Melancon, who last pitched in the Minors in 2010. "I'm going to continue to work hard no matter where I'm at and get through it. I feel like something's going to click. Mentally I feel good, physically I feel good. It's close. I'm going to keep working hard."
Melancon, acquired in an offseason trade with the Astros in exchange for Jed Lowrie, had a side session with pitching coach Bob McClure earlier Tuesday, something the right-hander has done more of lately since he's seen little game action. He was pitching on three days' rest Tuesday, and the outing before that on four days' rest -- just like a starter.
That's a different role for a guy who saved 20 games last season.
"I feel it's just something small that's going to click here sooner or later," Melancon said. "Keep working hard and keep trying to figure out exactly what it is. Once we get that, I feel like it'll click.
"That's the tricky thing right now, is that I feel good. Whether I'm opening up or showing the ball too early or something mechanically like that, [I don't know]. Something like that has to be going on. Balls have been left up in the zone, and good hitters take advantage of that. I know that, so [it's a] combination of things I'm sure."
Melancon was getting support throughout the clubhouse. Adrian Gonzalez came over and talked to him on the mound, and more players spoke out for Melancon postgame.
"I'm sure, just like we go through slumps and can't seem to find ways to get hits, pitchers do the same," outfielder Cody Ross said. "They feel like they can't get anybody yet. I'm sure that's probably what he's going through right now. The thing is, just keep picking him up and having confidence in him."