SAN FRANCISCO — The Washington Nationals found their reliable new man for the ninth inning, acquiring All-Star closer Mark Melancon from the Pittsburgh Pirates on Saturday.
Washington sent reliever Felipe Rivero and pitching prospect Taylor Hearn to the Pirates for Melancon, who supplants struggling Jonathan Papelbon as Washington’s closer. Melancon is expected to join the Nationals on Sunday for the series finale at San Francisco.
Melancon, a 31-year-old right-hander, has 30 saves and a 1.51 ERA this season and joins his fifth organization in eight years. He is making $9.65 million and is eligible for free agency after the World Series.
Once considered a possible successor to Mariano Rivera when he broke into the majors with the New York Yankees in 2009, Melancon said during the All-Star break he knew a trade was possible, given his contract status. He didn’t expect Pirates GM Neal Huntington to keep him in the loop every step of the way.
“It’s just the teams change, they fluctuate depending on the wild-card standings,” Melancon said July 11.
This was the well-traveled Melancon’s fourth season in Pittsburgh after he also pitched for Houston, Boston and the Yankees.
He will move his family once more — his wife and three kids.
“That kind of is what makes things a lot bigger deal just because you’ve got five times the bodies,” he said. “It’s not just me, it’s about four other people along with me.”
Papelbon is 2-4 with a 4.41 ERA and has allowed eight runs and seven hits in his past three outing. Manager Dusty Baker wouldn’t say earlier Saturday whether Papelbon still was his closer. Baker pulled Papelbon from a game Thursday in the ninth inning.
Rivero, a 25-year-old lefty, is 0-3 with a 4.53 ERA this season. Hearn is a 21-year-old lefty who was the Nationals’ fifth-round pick in the 2015 amateur draft.
Also Saturday, Washington recalled right-handed pitcher Reynaldo Lopez from Triple-A Syracuse.