New Nats closer Melancon puts premium on unity

New Nats closer Melancon puts premium on unity

SAN FRANCISCO -- In what he described as a whirlwind of a day, hindered by flight delays and a layover in Phoenix, Mark Melancon arrived in San Francisco at around 2 a.m. PT Sunday morning to join the Nationals.

In between his own travel and Washington's 5-3 loss to San Francisco on Saturday afternoon, Melancon exchanged text messages with Jonathan Papelbon, the man he will displace as closer. Consider Melancon's answer for what makes a strong bullpen and it is easy to see why Melancon wanted to reach out to Papelbon -- whom he credited for handling what could have been an awkward situation well.

"Camaraderie is definitely up there," Melancon said. "It's important that everybody's rooting for each other and just pass the baton on and get it done. Everybody has each other's back."

Further evidence he believed that statement was on Melancon's head, or apparent by what was not. The entire Pirates bullpen agreed to shave their heads a couple of weeks ago as a show of unity, so Melancon sat in the visitors dugout here wearing a red Nationals hoodie with a shaved head.

The new Nationals closer spent the morning being welcomed by new manager Dusty Baker and meeting some of his new teammates, although he was familiar with a few players in the clubhouse -- including Chris Heisey, Anthony Rendon (whom he worked out with in the offseason) and Max Scherzer (whom he played with on Team USA). Melancon described himself as excited to join a first-place team with playoff aspirations.

"Gives you a nice little boost, I know that," he said. "For me, it was really exciting, whirlwind of a day yesterday, but I'm here and everything's been great."

The Nationals acquired Melancon on Saturday afternoon from the Pirates for left-handers Felipe Rivero and Taylor Hearn. Melancon said his past experience being traded made this process easier to go through.

"I've realized until it happens, it's not a big deal," he said.

Melancon's most recent appearance came against the Nationals on July 17, a blown save after he surrendered a pinch-hit solo homer in the ninth to Daniel Murphy. Melancon joked that he could see into the future as if he knew he would join the Nationals two weeks later.

"I was trying to help us out," he said.

Jamal Collier covers the Nationals for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.