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Melancon's bounce-back year off to good start

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PHOENIX -- Mark Melancon has been around the Major League block a few times. This, as they say, is not his first rodeo.

However, the 28-year-old righty has never ridden that bucking bronco of big league hitters as smoothly. He has thrown blanks in his first five appearances with the Pirates, allowing only two baserunners in five innings.

And, Melancon says, there is nothing accidental about these first strides on the comeback trail from a 2012 season in which he had a 6.20 ERA out of Boston's bullpen.

"I learned more about my delivery and about pitching in general in a month of Spring Training than I have my whole pro career," said Melancon, whose career began with his 2006 First-Year Player Draft selection by the Yankees.

Melancon has also been through the Houston and Boston organizations without getting the benefit of the type of instruction offered this spring by Pirates pitching coach Ray Searage and Jim Benedict, a special assistant to general manager Neal Huntington, whose specialty is pitchers.

"He brought awareness to some of the things in my delivery which, honestly, I haven't really yet changed," Melancon said of Benedict. "It's a work in progress, and I'm just glad I'm aware of it, so in the long run I can deal with it and be that much better."

It's not a big thing. Just those "little tiny things" that can make a difference, like Melancon's "leg kick and the path it takes."

"People in the big leagues expect you to know everything and just do it," Melancon said. "There's not a whole lot of learning."

The Pirate City School of Pitching appears to be an exception.

Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog Change for a Nickel. He can also be found on Twitter @Tom_Singer. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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