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Melancon bringing calm demeanor to closer's role

PITTSBURGH -- Since Mark Melancon stepped in for injured Jason Grilli as the Pirates' closer, the ends of their games have lost a few decibels. And catcher Russell Martin is getting fewer punches in the gut.

The blond crewcut Melancon is slightly less hyper, fans may have noticed, than Grilli, trailing those long dark locks. Grilli would punctuate saves with punches in the air -- then undercuts into Martin's midsection. Melancon is a handshake guy.

As they say, different strokes for different folks.

"I don't know if personality matters. It's all about getting three outs," said Melancon, four-for-four in save situations since the Bucs lost Grilli to a strained forearm tendon on July 22. "I'm not trying to show anybody up, or make myself look bigger than the team. I'm one to just bulldog, and go after it."

It works, said manager Clint Hurdle. Grilli was an open book. Melancon? Can't judge the book by its cover.

"He's very humble, and very competitive," Hurdle said of Melancon. "He's got that edge, don't let his outward behavior fool you. He's every bit as competitive as Grilli. There are different ways of showing it."

Don't think that Melancon is thoroughly vanilla, without streaks of Neapolitan. After all, he's the guy who inspired the Pittsburgh bullpen's Shark Tank culture.

And while his exit strategy may be docile, not so his entrance. He comes through the gates to "Thunderstruck" by AC/DC -- whose "Hells Bells" for years introduced Trevor Hoffman, who held the career saves record until broken by Mo Rivera, brought on by Metallica's "Enter Sandman."

"Hoffman and Rivera never beat their chests, either," said Hurdle, likening Melancon's personality to those of the two greats. "They came in to pretty good music, but that's where [the extracurriculars] stopped."

Melancon broke into the Majors with the 2009-10 Yankees, sitting in their bullpen alongside Rivera.

"The big thing I got from Mo," Melancon remembered, "was [to] just go do your job, and don't be the spotlight."

Tom Singer is a reporter for and writes an MLBlog Change for a Nickel. He can also be found on Twitter @Tom_Singer.
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