Red Sox 'comfortable and confident' Hanrahan will 'be a really good closer'


Red Sox 'comfortable and confident' Hanrahan will 'be a really good closer'

Eliminating any possibility of on-going speculation, Red Sox manager John Farrell told newly acquired Joel Hanrahan the right-hander will be the teams closer going into the 2013 season.  Farrell delivered the same message to right-hander Andrew Bailey, who was acquired almost exactly a year ago, Dec. 28, 2011, to fill the closers role. But after suffering a thumb injury in spring training and undergoing surgery on April 4, Bailey did not make his season debut until Aug. 14. He posted a record of 1-1 with a  7.04 ERA, six saves, and three blown saves. John plans to go into the spring with Hanrahan as the closer, said Red Sox assistant general manager Brian OHalloran, filling in for GM Ben Cherington on a Wednesday afternoon conference call. He talked to Andrew. We see Andrew as playing a very important role at the back end of our bullpen, as well.  Therell  be plenty of opportunities for him to help us win games in key situations late in the game.  And we know he's very capable of both closing and pitching in other high-leverage situations at the end of games. The Sox acquired Hanrahan and infielder Brock Holt Wednesday from the Pirates in exchange for right-handers Mark Melancon and Stolmy Pimentel, infielder Ivan De Jesus, and first basemanoutfielder Jerry Sands. Hanrahan, who turned 31 in October, gives the Sox the possibility of sending an elite closer out to the mound. He was 5-2 with a 2.72 ERA and 36 saves in 40 opportunities, making 63 appearances spanning 59 23 innings in 2012, holding opponents to a .187 average.  Over the last two seasons,  he is 6-6 with a 2.24 ERA and 76 saves, fourth in the National League, making 133 appearances, with a  128 strikeouts over  128 13 innings. He was an All-Star the last two years. We think that  Joel  Hanrahan has the stuff to pitch anywhere, OHalloran said. Hes been a very successful closer in the National Leagues and his stuff, as Im sure youve seen, is right at the top of the scale.  Hes got a fastball in the upper 90s. When hes right his sliders as good as anybodys in baseball. I think it was 2011 that we saw what he could do to a pretty good American League East team in the Red Sox at the time. We really believe that this guys stuff plays anywhere and hes got the experience closing successfully for two years as an All-Star. Were excited to bring him over and have him help us win games. Hanrahan, who is arbitration eligible, avoided arbitration last year, agreeing to a one-year 4.1 million deal. He is likely due for a sizable raise. He can become a free agent after the 2013 season.  Hanrahan knew there was a good likelihood the Pirates would move him this offseason. I knew the possibility was pretty likely there was  a chance Id get traded, he said. I had heard the different teams with the Red Sox, Tigers, Dodgers. I had heard those rumors and knew they were talking about it. ..I saw that the Red Sox were going to be the team, I got excited. Obviously the red sox have a great history and tradition. Its a huge sports city there in Boston. My wifes family is from that area. It was nice to have some familiarity with it and get it out of the way and focus this next six weeks on getting ready from spring training with the Red Sox. In June 2011, the Pirates took two of three games from the Sox in Pittsburgh, with Hanrahan recording saves in both. He struck out Adrian Gonzalez to end the game for his second save in that series, which left its mark on the Sox. It definitely made an impression on me, OHalloran said. I hadnt seen very much of him, just a little bit here and there prior to that. And that was pretty impressive if you go back and look at the video of that.  It was not fun to be in the batters box against Joel Hanrahan Im sure for our hitters. We're excited to have him on our side. Obviously the track record is lengthy the last few years as a closer. But that did absolutely make a strong impression on us. Hanrahan was fifth in the NL with 36 saves in 2012 one more than the Sox recorded as a team. But he also had some struggles. His walks were up from 16 in 68 23 innings in 2011 to 36 over 59 2.3 innings, a walks-per-nine ratio 5.4, well above his  2.1 of 2011 and his highest since posting a 6.7 mark in 2007, his first big league season. Some of his other numbers were also off, including his strikeouts-to-walks ratio of 1.86, also his lowest since 2007, off his career mark of 2.27. His home runs-per-nine of 1.2, was his highest since 2007 and off his career average of 0.8. Over the last two months of the season, Hanrahan appeared in 20 games, spanning 18 13 innings, striking out 20, walking 15, with an opponents' average of .229 and .808 OPS, going 1-2 with five saves and a blown save. There was some concern that toward the last month or two that he had lost feel for his slider, and that was his bread and butter, wipeout pitch, said a scout.  In his last eight or nine innings he ended up walking like 10 guys, and his slider has always been a nice control pitch for him, where hed been able to throw that for a strike and then when  he gets ahead in the count lets the fastball really go and sometimes hell get chases with. His fastball can play up to 98 mph, but its usually 95-96 average. But if he can revert back to his previous two years, then by all means he would be a quality closer. The Sox are confident Hanrahan can do that. Obviously we looked at that increase in walks very closely, Hanrahan said. We do think there are some reasons that you saw the uptick in walks. Were going to talk to Joel and Johns already started that process. And pitching coach Juan Nieves, and bullpen coach Gary Tuck and John will  get together with Joel and sort out anything that they see and help him with that. But its not something that were concerned about long term. We believe that were going to get the guy that has been a great closer for two years. But we did pay close attention to that and look into that. We feel very comfortable and confident that hes going to be a really good closer for us going forward.
Hanrahan, who attributed his struggles to some lingering injuries, is confident they are behind him.
I had some issues with my legs last year, he said. I hurt my hamstring early on in the year and then I had a sore ankle there for a while that kind of went under the wraps. I was wearing  a tight ankle brace for a couple of weeks that kind of restricted my mechanics and that had something to do with it. It was nothing that I was concerned about. Theres times where you pick and choose who you want to walk ,if you want to walk somebody, as well. I dont  think that the walks are going to be a concern.  I feel good going into spring training and thats going to be the main thing.

Report: White Sox scouting Red Sox' minor league affiliates for possible trade


Report: White Sox scouting Red Sox' minor league affiliates for possible trade

Though the chances are slim the Red Sox and White Sox make a blockbuster trade before the MLB trade deadline, Chicago is at least sending resources to Boston's minor league affiliates to scout their prospects.

ESPN Boston's Scott Lauber first reported Friday the White Sox were scouting Double-A Portland (home of Yoan Moncada and Andrew Benintendi), but Ken Rosenthal adds they were also at their Single-A and Triple-A affiliates.

Though one would assume the Red Sox are seeking prospects for a potential return on Chris Sale, Rosenthal thinks it could be "for reasons other than Sale" and that some believe the White Sox are "simply laying groundwork for off-season trade."

Stay tuned for more.

Cooper carted off, reportedly dealing with plantar fascia injury


Cooper carted off, reportedly dealing with plantar fascia injury

FOXBORO – There was some offensive line attrition this morning at the first full-contact practice of training camp.

Most notably, guard Jonathan Cooper left the field on a cart.

Cooper, acquired from the Cardinals in the Chandler Jones trade, went down during a drill when the offensive line was firing off and hitting bags and carrying the blocks out. It appeared to be his right foot that was afflicted. He was down for a few minutes and the team had to move the drill away from him as he stayed down. Quarterback Tom Brady went over to check on Cooper before Cooper was helped gingerly to a cart alongside trainer Jim Whalen and was carted away.

Ian Rapoport from NFL Media reported after Cooper went down that the former first-rounder is battling plantar fascia, a painful foot ailment.

That’s what led to him needing to be held off, according to Rap.

Meanwhile, center Bryan Stork kinda just slipped out of practice. He was first noticed missing when he did not take part in 1-on-1s which came early in practice. He was out there for the beginning of practice so whether he was hurt, sent off for whacking people or had a dentist’s appointment isn’t known.

Bill Belichick wasn’t available after practice. Otherwise we’d have the full scoop.

We’ll keep an eye on that for Sunday.

Running back D.J. Foster and guard Shaq Mason meanwhile didn’t take part in 1-on-1s and retired to a lower field for some conditioning. Guard Josh Kline’s workload is also a bit limited while guard Tre Jackson and tackle Sebastian Vollmer are on the PUP list still.

The Patriots have practice Sunday and are in the stadium for a night practice on Monday before getting Tuesday off.

Tom E. Curran can be followed on Twitter: @tomecurran

Patriots happy to experience 'real football' on first day with pads


Patriots happy to experience 'real football' on first day with pads

FOXBORO -- With pads on the docket to be introduced for the first time during Saturday's practice, it gave Patriots coaches an opportunity to put together a plan that focused on the running game. 

Early in practice, defensive ends worked on setting an edge, while receivers practiced sealing off defensive backs on the outside. Linemen got to go at each other in one-on-one drills, and running backs got to lower their shoulders and try to run through contact. 

While the session featured fewer passes at which the thousands of fans in attendance could marvel, it did set the table for some hitting that elicited oohs and ahhs from the crowd. 

Though some players were on the receiving end of a forceful hits, the consensus at the end of practice seemed to be that players on both sides of the football were pleased with the summer's first truly physical session. 

"You see a run game, finally, not just passing every play," Devin McCourty said. "I just think it’s real football. We come out here and we get to work on fundamentals and all of those things. We’re seeing guys’ mentalities, being able to play violently. That’s what football is all about."

For players on the offensive and defensive lines in particular, padded sessions provide them with an opportunity to shine. When practices are held in shorts and t-shirts, there's only so much those big bodies can do. But on Saturday, they were focused on opening up and clogging holes in the running game. 

Defensive tackle Terrance Knighton said he's been waiting for Saturday for some time.

"Training camp started today," he said. "Yesterday, the day before, [that] was preliminary. It was all about seeing who came back in good condition, getting back to their playbook. Real football is with a helmet on and shoulder pads. 

"There's just something about putting on these pads and thudding up, and coach giving us one period today to go live, see who [can] really man up. That's what it's about with the pads on. See who's gonna show up. See who are the real men out here. See who can play 11-on-11."

The first big collision of the day came between LeGarrette Blount and Jamie Collins. During a run-specific drill, Blount got through a hole and put his head down. He hit Collins hard, knocking the linebacker backwards, but he lost his feet and fell to the turf. That started a steady stream of solid "thuds" -- not wrapping up or tackling to the ground -- throughout the afternoon.

With contact, often comes some chatter, and Saturday was no different. 

"You got the offense bickering back at us and we're bickering back at them," Knighton said. "They make plays, we make plays. All day, it's a competition. If everyone was out here quiet, going through the motions, it would be boring. You won't get nothing out of it. You try to be competitive. At the same time you also try to work on your fundamentals and do what you gotta do." 

"It was fun," said Chris Hogan of the contact. "We were looking forward to it. We're playing football now. There's no more with the shells on or just helmets. This is real football now. We look forward to this. We kind of had our minds right for the one-on-ones with the DBs and the blocking drills and all that kind of stuff. It was a lot of fun today." 

Later on Saturday, players and coaches will go back over the tape of their first day of hitting. That's where, Knighton said, the rubber will meet the road for some players who talked a big game leading up to this day. 

"Guys always talk about what they'll do when the pads come on," he said. "We'll watch the tape today, and the eye in the sky won't lie."