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Melancon finds comfort in return to bigs

Melancon finds comfort in return to bigs

ANAHEIM -- It wasn't until Mark Melancon's second Major League inning that the right-hander began to feel some rookie jitters, a good start considering he'd just recorded three outs with the bases loaded.

That was in late April, when Melancon was called up to help bail out an overtaxed Yankees bullpen. The 24-year-old is back to try it again, summoned from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre on Friday as the Yankees open a three-game weekend series at Angel Stadium.

"The first time, I think there's a lot of things that you don't expect," Melancon said. "There's things that you just have to experience one time, so those things are out of the way."

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In a corresponding roster move, the Yankees optioned right-hander Jonathan Albaladejo to Triple-A, one day after he picked up a victory at Minnesota with 1 2/3 scoreless innings.

Yankees manager Joe Girardi said Albaladejo might have something about which to commiserate with Ramiro Pena and Francisco Cervelli.

"Like the last couple of guys we sent down, Albaladejo did nothing wrong," Girardi said. "He threw the ball really well for us, but we thought we needed some distance, possibly."

Girardi said the Yankees needed some additional innings in the bullpen in part because of Joba Chamberlain's tendency to run high pitch counts in his starts, which is why Melancon had to make a 6 a.m. ET flight on Friday out of Newark.

"It's always exciting," Melancon said. "It's just a great opportunity. I'll try to take the best out of it."

But the Yankees are also without Alfredo Aceves for the weekend and Phil Hughes on Friday -- a result of Thursday's 6-4 win, in which five relievers had to soak up 5 2/3 innings.

Melancon was 4-0 with three saves and a 2.50 ERA in 25 appearances at Triple-A. In 39 2/3 innings, the right-hander allowed 25 hits and 14 runs (11 earned), walking nine and striking out 42 while holding opponents to a .175 batting average, and he had been stretched out to multiple innings there.

"I've never been one to really look at stats a whole lot and try to figure out what's going to happen next," said Melancon, who last pitched on July 6 against Pawtucket and could be used for up to 45 pitches. "The mind-set I try to keep is to just do my job, and things are going to fall into place."

Melancon made four appearances with the Yankees earlier this season before being optioned back to Triple-A on May 8.

"The first game he came in, he was really good," Girardi said. "I thought he was a little wild the first time up and wasn't throwing as many strikes as we were accustomed to seeing. He went down and threw the ball great at Triple-A, and that's one of the reasons we called him up."

Melancon prefers to remember what was good about his 3 1/3 previous innings at the big league level, which included two outings against the Red Sox and one appearance each against the Angels and Tigers.

"You just get familiar with people and all the little things -- where to go at the stadium, people to talk to and so forth," Melancon said. "That first time experience is over, and I have all the experience that I didn't have before, which is great."

During that span, Melancon allowed two runs -- posting a 5.40 ERA -- and in his final outing, on May 5, he faced three Red Sox batters without recording an out.

"The difference is, you recognize who's up there," Melancon said. "In Triple-A, you don't really recognize who it is. You get maybe that awe factor -- facing Big Papi, that was cool. You know who it is, so you've seen the home run highlights, but you definitely don't let that affect you."

Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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