SUMMER SPORTS UPDATE: Melancon nears deal with Yankees

Former Arizona closer Mark Melancon pitches against UC Riverside Feb. 27, 2005, at Sancet Stadium. Melancon is expected to sign with the New York Yankees this week after they drafted him in the ninth round of Junes amateur draft.

Former Arizona closer Mark Melancon pitches against UC Riverside Feb. 27, 2005, at Sancet Stadium. Melancon is expected to sign with the New York Yankees this week after they drafted him in the ninth round of June’s amateur draft.

John Ryan Casey

Mark Melancon may soon find himself in a different set of pinstripes.

The junior closer is close to inking a deal with the New York Yankees, who drafted him in the ninth round of last month’s amateur draft, according to Arizona head coach Andy Lopez.

“”He’s gonna sign,”” Lopez said. “”It’s not official, but I talked to Mark two days ago. He’s probably going to sign this week.””

Arizona’s career saves leader with 18, Melancon was limited to a career-low 39 1/3 innings this past season after missing the last seven weeks of the season with an injury to his throwing elbow. He finished 3-3 with four saves and a 2.97 ERA while striking out 52.

Redshirt sophomore-to-be Daniel Schlereth, who saved seven games last season in Melancon’s absence, is expected to step in as the closer next season.

“”Daniel was out here yesterday working out … and he looks good, looks real good,”” Lopez said.

Terms of the deal weren’t available at press time. Melancon joins fellow junior Jason Donald, a shortstop, in skipping his senior season.

Donald, who was taken No. 97 overall as the third-round pick of the Philadelphia Phillies, signed in mid-June and is currently with their Class A short-season affiliate Batavia Muckdogs in the New York-Penn League. Through 16 games, Donald is enjoying a bit of success, hitting .333 with a home run and 10 RBIs.

Senior Brad Boyer, who went in the 13th round to the San Francisco Giants, is with their Class A short-season affiliate Salem-Keizer Volcanoes in the Northwestern League, hitting .130 with a home run and five RBIs in 14 games.

Arizona outfield recruit Drew Rundle, a 14th-round pick of the Chicago Cubs, is hitting .071 with one RBI with 10 strikeouts in 14 at-bats for the Arizona League Cubs, Chicago’s Rookie affiliate.

Outside of Melancon, Donald and injured would-be junior ace Eric Berger, Lopez said he expects every non-senior to return to the field, meaning senior-to-be starter Brad Mills likely won’t sign with Toronto, who drafted him in the 22nd round.

Berger will be sidelined in 2007 after undergoing Tommy John surgery earlier this summer. He missed the last two and a half months of 2006 after tweaking an old tendon injury in his throwing arm.