Hanrahan impressed with Fenway after first visit

978271.jpg

Hanrahan impressed with Fenway after first visit

BOSTON Fenway Park is one of the four ballparks in which Joel Hanrahan has never pitched. The new Red Sox closer had never even visited the ancient park before Tuesday. So, as a fan of baseball history, he made sure to work a tour of the park into his itinerary. He started with the home clubhouse, before a trip to left field and a peek inside the Green Monster before taking in the view from topside.

Its a lot nicer than I thought it was going to be, Hanrahan said. Obviously, theyve put some money into it over the years.

I thought, this place is amazing. A lot bigger than I thought it was. Obviously a ton of history here. Got to go up on the top of the monster, see what its like from that angle. I know my wife is going to be begging me to sit out there one day. It looked great. Got to go in the clubhouse for the first time, try to see where my new office is. Im definitely excited. It looks great.

Hanrahans wife, Kim, was born in Virginia but her parents are from the Greater Boston area and shes visited Fenway several times during family visits.

Shes been to one of the Red Sox-Yankees games here before, Hanrahan said. She said its awesome. The environment of a baseball game is completely different than any other place that shes been. So thatll be a fun experience.

Hanrahan, who turned 31 in October and was acquired in a trade with the Pirates in December, will soon get that experience for himself.

But, pitching in the American League East will also be a relatively new experience for him. In his six-season career with the Nationals and Pirates, Hanrahan has compiled a record of 22-17 with 96 saves and a 3.74 ERA in 353 games (11 starts). With the Pirates in 2012 he was 5-2, with 36 saves, and a 2.72 ERA in 63 games, spanning 59 23 innings.

But, he has appeared in just 15 games, spanning 14 23 innings, against AL East teams 10 against the Orioles, one against the Rays, and four against the Blue Jays. In all, he has compiled a record of 2-1 with three saves, a 4.29 ERA, and a .259 opponents batting average.

Hanrahan has heard the skepticism directed at pitchers going from the National League to the American League.

That's fine, he said. You can say that but you have to go back and look. My job is to get three people out in the ninth inning before I give up the lead so I feel like I've been in some big games. I feel like Ive been in some tough spots. I'm not going to go out there and strike out the side every time. That's not the kind of pitcher that I am. I'm going to come after guys and Im going to give up some hits and stuff like that but no matter where you go youre going to have doubters anyway so I just try not to pay attention to that. My job is to go out there and save the victory for the team and if we have a three-run lead and I give up two runs and we win that game, Im going to be the same guy. I'm going to be happy that we won that game and I think my laid-back personality will come back in that. And I like to have fun, too.

While it wasnt striking out the side, one of the signature moments of his career, Hanrahan said, was striking out Adrian Gonzalez, with the Pirates up by two runs and Dustin Pedroia on second base, to end the game on June 25, 2011, when the Sox visited PNC Park. The Pirates took two of three from the Sox in that series, with Hanrahan earning saves in both.

I think they did play the Gonzalez strikeout it on the Jumobotron every time at PNC, Hanrahan said. Every strikeout to me is awesome. In 2011 that was the time that the Pirates, everyone knew their history and we were right there in the middle of it. I think we were in first place at the time, if not second place. That was a big series for us. That kind of showed us that we could play with anybody at the time. So I think that's kind of like one of the things people remember. The fans were into it, the team was into it. It was a 1- or 2-run game I dont even remember the situation. Just for the Red Sox to come into Pittsburgh, we took two out of three from them, so that was one of the moments that the Pirate fans remembered that year.

Hanrahan knows a few of his new teammates. A second-round pick of the Dodgers in 2000 out of Norwalk High in Iowa, he was roommates with Shane Victorino in the Dodgers organization in 2004. He now lives in Texas and has worked out in the offseason with Will Middlebrooks back there. He was teammates with Pedroia on the 2009 USAS World Baseball Classic team. Hes played against Jonny Gomes and David Ross.

Other than that, he said, its going to be one of them things where Im going to need to study up on the program before I go to spring training.

Its also one of the reasons he wont be pitching in the WBC this year: He wants his new teammates and coaches to get to know him. He hasnt had much of a chance to talk with manager John Farrell or pitching coach Juan Nieves. Another reason he wont be in the WBC this year is that he and Kim are expecting their first child in March.

Hanrahan likes what he sees of the Sox bullpen and its possibilities.

Andrew Miller's always been one of those guys to watch for to see what he's going to do, Hanrahan said. I remember watching him as a starter coming up through Florida... big arm. Franklin Morales has another big arm. I feel like Craig Breslow's been getting people out for 12 years now. Koji Uehara's had a great career. Andrew Bailey I think if he comes back healthy he's got a lot of prove this year so he's going to be coming out strong. I'm not sure what the plans are with Daniel Bard but that's another big arm down there. There's a lot of arms that could get the job done at any time.

I was looking at something on the plane where MLB Network had the top five bullpens and I was thinking they might throw us on there but we'll have to work our way onto there. We'll have to work our way onto it but we belong there.

Acciari glad to be back with B's after missing a month

bruins-noel-acciari.jpg

Acciari glad to be back with B's after missing a month

BOSTON -- Noel Acciari missed a month of game action with a lower body injury, so it would have been perfectly acceptable to show plenty of rust in his game upon returning to the Boston lineup.

But the former Providence College standout didn’t look rusty, a step behind or out of place in any way as he played the fourth line energy forward role to a perfect fit after missing the last 13 games. Acciari did get in one game with the Providence Bruins prior to suiting back up for the Black and Gold on Saturday, and perhaps that helped him manufacture a couple of shots on net to go along with three thumping hits against the Maple Leafs.

The 25-year-old Acciari didn’t factor into the scoring at all for the Bruins, but that’s just as well given that his focus should be on killing penalties, being hard to play against and taking the body whenever the chance presents itself. Claude Julien reformed the B’s energy line that had so much success earlier in the season with Acciari, Dominic Moore and Tim Schaller, and didn’t hesitate tossing them back into the mix together while looking for energy and a spark for an offensively stunted team.

“It’s good to be back with my linemates, and you know, I think we kind of picked up where we left off, but there’s definitely things we need to work on. That’ll come with a couple more practices and games together,” said Acciari, who finished theSaturday loss with three registered hits packed into 11:35 of ice time. “Kind of getting back to our familiarity and kind of get back to where we were before I got injured.

“It was a good start tonight, but we definitely just weren’t clicking like we used to, but that’ll come. I think that will come. Like I said, a couple practices and just kind of getting some games in [are good things]. I thought we were pretty good tonight, but, you know, should get more pucks to score [goals].”

Clearly there is room for improvement for everybody including Acciari, but it was encouraging to see the fearless competitor again flying around on the TD Garden ice playing high intensity hockey for a fourth line that could use every little bit of that. 

Backes: "Offensive frustration is warranted at this point"

Backes: "Offensive frustration is warranted at this point"

BOSTON -- This may not come as a surprise, but the Boston Bruins are having some trouble putting the puck in the net.

Despite outshooting the Maple Leafs by an 11-2 margin in the first period and outshooting them by a 32-21 margin over the balance of the 60 minute game, the Bruins scratched for just a single goal in a frustrating, constipated 4-1 loss to Toronto at TD Garden. Clearly some of the offensive difficulty was caused by a solid Frederik Andersen, who improved to 6-0-0 in a career against Boston that’s beginning to take on Bruins Killer proportions.

But a great deal of the B’s struggles to finish scoring chances on Saturday night is a malady that’s dogged the Bruins all season, and marked the 20th time in 29 games this year that Boston has scored two goals or less. In most of these games the Bruins have dominated puck possession and outshot their opponents, but still have come away mostly empty handed in the goals scored department while dropping deep in the bottom third of NHL offenses this season.

“It seems like every game we’re out-chancing teams, but we don’t outscore teams. That’s where the biggest issue is right now. Our scoring is not there and if you don’t score goals you don’t win hockey games,” said Claude Julien. “Because of that we criticize everything else in our game, but our game isn’t that bad.

“If we were scoring goals people would love our game right now, but that’s the biggest part. There’s not much more I can say here except for the fact that if we don’t score goals it’s going to be hard to win hockey games.”

But the Bruins aren’t scoring goals consistently, their power play is below average while trending in the wrong direction and the team has been forced to watch steady offensive players like Patrice Bergeron suddenly slump in a concerning way. Clearly David Pastrnak is doing his part with 18 goals scored this season in 24 games, and others like Brad Marchand and Dominic Moore have also performed above, or beyond, their acceptable level of play.

But there are other players failing with the chance to make an offensive dent: Austin Czarnik has been on the roster for nearly two months, and has zero goals and two points in his last 15 games as the offense is again dried up on the third line. He missed wide on a shorthanded chance in the third period after a Moore centering pass set up him all alone in front, and was critiquing himself for fanning on a perfect dish to him in the slot.

Moments later the Leafs had an insurance score from James van Riemsdyk to make it a 3-1 game, and it was all over for the Black and Gold at that point.

Czarnik is an easy target because he’s young and inexperienced, but there is more than enough struggle and frustration to go around with a bunch of offensive players that can’t seem to get out of their own way. David Backes admitted it’s reached a point where the Bruins are frustrated when they can’t score enough to beat a team like Toronto, and that it falls squarely on the lead guys in the Black and Gold dressing room that are underperforming.

“I think offensive frustration is warranted at this point; we just haven’t done a good enough job scoring goals. We played a heck of a first period. We limited them to two shots and we had an opportunity to have a team that’s coming in here that’s a younger team, to really put them behind the eight ball,” said Backes. “Instead, they think they got a second lease on life and they were able to capitalize. All of the sudden, they were up 2-0 and we’re fighting an uphill battle again rather than -- we have that opportunity to play a heck of a first period and we don’t find a way – it’s easy to talk about, but it’s going out there and doing the job and putting it past or through the goalie, or however it needs to happen. “You’ve seen our goals; you want to do a study on it unless you’re Pasta [David Pastrnak] with the one-timer on the side, it’s been ugly, it’s been rebounds, it’s been greasy goals and that’s our equation and we need more of it, and we didn’t do it. They did a good job of being in front of their net and boxing out, eliminating those second chances. But, we’ve got good players in here that need to create more and find those second chances and win those battles, find those loose pucks, and throw them in the net.”

The Bruins have been talking seemingly all season about the need to get to the “dirty areas in the offensive zone”, and for players to jump all over the second and third chance opportunities currently going by the board unchallenged on goalie rebounds.

Now it’s about speaking with action for the B’s, and more specifically speaking volumes with goals and offensive finish instead of “chances” that aren’t doing much of anything if they’re not being snapped into the back of the net.