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.

Friday, Jan. 20: Canes’ Bickell tries to carry on after MS diagnosis

Friday, Jan. 20: Canes’ Bickell tries to carry on after MS diagnosis

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading, while simply skating my lane today.

*A terrific piece on Carolina Hurricanes forward Bryan Bickell getting on with his life after an MS diagnosis, and pushing to see if he can return to the ice.

*If the New York Islanders botch the hirings for people guiding the franchise, then John Tavares could be one of the next figures gone from Brooklyn.

*It’s been a rough go of it for St. Louis Blues goaltender Jake Allen over the past few weeks and that continued on Thursday night.

*Top NHL Draft prospect Nolan Patrick’s value comes from his two-way play, and that’s what teams are focused on rather than the injury issues.

*Mike Babcock talks a wide range of subjects with James Duthie during a 1-on-1 with the Toronto Maple Leafs head coach.

*In his never-ending odyssey on the fringes of the NHL, Seth Griffith has been claimed by the Maple Leafs on waivers for the second time.

*Veteran forward Clarke MacArthur won’t be playing this season for the Ottawa Senators amid his concussion issues.

*For something completely different: Bill Belichick just being Bill Belichick at his press conference on Friday and that’s something we can all be reassured about.


Patriots have perfect attendance at final practice of AFC Championship week

Patriots have perfect attendance at final practice of AFC Championship week

FOXBORO -- The Patriots had perfect attendance at Friday's practice, meaning they had all 53 players on their active roster present and accounted for at all three practices this week. 

Contrast that with how things have gone for the Steelers this week, and there is a stark difference. Star running back Le'Veon Bell missed each of his team's first two on-the-field workouts this week, and several Steelers players are dealing with a bug that seems to have circulated the locker room. 

The Patriots could have an interesting game-day roster decision to make should Chris Hogan (thigh), Malcolm Mitchell (knee) and Danny Amendola (ankle) both be healthy enough to play on Sunday. They have not entered a game with five receivers in uniform this season but could potentially dress Mitchell, Amendola, Julian Edelman, Chris Hogan and Michael Floyd.

Other players listed as limited participants in practice this week are Brandon Bolden (knee), Martellus Bennett (knee), Dont'a Hightower (shoulder) and Jabaal Sheard (knee).