Long before his surgery in 2007 and his “easy” 2008 season, people had an inkling that Mark Melancon would someday inherit Mariano Rivera’s role as closer.

He has already caught some people’s eyes. Including Jorge Posada. Here are a few excerpts from newspapers:

First, from Tyler Kepner of the NY Times:

Melancon looked good Sunday, with a crisp fastball and curveball. He induced missed swings, broke Cano’s bat and impressed the veterans.

“He’s got a bright future, there’s no doubt about that,” said Jorge Posada, who caught Melancon’s session. “He could be a short reliever, a closer type. I think he could do it.”

Peter Abraham was equally impressed:

Wow. 30 pitches and there were four swing and misses. He also broke Cano’s bat. There were two balls put in play, singles by Jeter and Romine.

Melancon’s fastball was as advertised. He also threw five curveballs and all but one were strikes. It’s a big curve, too.

And so was Mark Feinsand:

I’m certainly no scout, but Melancon’s stuff looked pretty impressive from my vantage point, which was behind the cage and about six feet to the right.

Instead of trusting my own amateur evaluation, I went to some more qualified people to ask their opinions on Melancon.

Joe Girardi: “His ball cuts, it sinks; it’s got a lot of movement and late life to it. That usually translates into swings and misses, not solid contact.”

Jorge Posada: “Good curveball, his four-seamer naturally cuts and he’s got a very good two-seamer. … His attitude, his demeanor, he works really hard. It’s good to watch what he’s doing. He’s very professional.”

And in a different article Melancon told Feinsand:

“I think I’m ready,” Melancon said when asked if he feels he belongs in the majors. “I still think I have a lot of learning to do. I’m definitely not at the level I want to be at.”

Roderick Boone had this quote from Girardi:

“Obviously, you don’t want to make too much of what you see right now because I believe his stuff is going to get better as he goes in spring training,” Girardi said. “I love his arm. I love the movement on his fastball. His curveball is very good. So he’s an interesting young man.”

Girardi also told Pete Caldera that:
Melancon is “a guy we expect to be in the [relievers] mix,”

Wow…sure is a lot of praise heaped on someone who has yet to break the majors.