Bucs' bullpen living up to 'Shark Tank' nickname

Bucs' bullpen living up to 'Shark Tank' nickname

PITTSBURGH -- Opponents have something to fear in the Pirates' bullpen, and its nickname seems to fit the bill.

Setup man Mark Melancon dubbed the team's group of relievers the "Shark Tank" on Twitter earlier this season, and it has been as deadly as its moniker.

The 28-year-old, well-traveled righty came up with the name while diving with great white sharks in southern New Zealand -- an item on the pitcher and his wife's bucket list. A younger shark hadn't been named yet, so a diver they were with said, "Why don't we just name it after you?"

And the pitcher brought the idea back to Pittsburgh and his cohorts, as a two-ton shark named "Melancon" swims halfway across the world.

"I'm good with whatever they like," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said of the nickname. "They seem to like the name, and they've kind of bought into that mentality. So I'm good with it."

Entering Thursday's game, Pirates relievers have a 2.89 ERA, the fifth-best in baseball, and opponents are hitting just .215 against them, good for second in the Majors.

Melancon and closer Jason Grilli have been a nearly perfect one-two punch to close out games. Melancon has a 0.43 ERA to go along with 22 strikeouts, one walk and 14 holds in 21 innings, while Grilli is an unscathed 16-for-16 in save opportunities.

"I feel a lot of confidence in the bullpen," said starter Wandy Rodriguez through interpreter and bullpen catcher Heberto Andrade. He tossed seven strong innings Wednesday night before turning the ball over to the Pirates' eighth-ninth inning duo, which sealed the win with a pair of 1-2-3 innings.

"They've been doing a tremendous job," said Rodriguez.

Melancon, who the Pirates acquired from the Red Sox when they sent closer Joel Hanrahan to Boston this offseason, said he and many of the other relievers take the same approach a closer would, seeing their responsibility as a single inning. And if each is effective in his duty, the torch gets passed right down the line.

"As a reliever, you always tend to try to take that as your approach," Melancon said. "It's our job."

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. Steven Petrella is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.