Hanrahan, Bailey looking to turn Red Sox bullpen into strength

Hanrahan, Bailey looking to turn Red Sox bullpen into strength
February 14, 2013, 12:40 am
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FORT MYERS, Fla. -- In the Red Sox clubhouse Wednesday morning, Joel Hanrahan stood in front of his locker and answered questions from a group of reporters for 10 or so minutes.
Three lockers down, Andrew Bailey stood by himself, readying for the day.
A year ago, Bailey was in Hanrahan's position: newly acquired by the Sox and ready to assume the role of the club's closer.
Now, Hanrahan, obtained in a January deal with the Pittsburgh Pirates, is elbowing him out of the spot that he held only briefly.
"That's the role they gave me coming over in the trade," said Hanrahan of the ninth-inning assignment, "and I don't plan on just giving it up."
Of course, that was probably what Bailey was thinking a year ago.
Hanrahan was an All-Star with the Pirates the last two years, but his salary, pushed along by salary arbitration, was deemed too expensive for a club still trying to reach contender status.
In 2011, Hanrahan was among the game's most dominant closers, notching 40 saves while posting a WHIP of 1.049. Last year, he had 36 saves, but his ERA was almost a run higher (1.83 to 2.72) and he had difficulty with his command.
Hanrahan averaged a strikeout per inning, but also more than doubled his walk total from the year before, despite pitching fewer innings.
"It was a combination of a lot of things," he said. "A little bit mechanics. I rolled my ankle throughout the year. I had a hamstring injury early. Any time you (have an issue) with your legs, that's what you work on all off-season and if you lose that...
"I had an ankle brace that restricted my mechanics and I wasn't pitching as often. Then, sometimes, too, you pick and choose the guys that you want to face. When you have a three-run lead, you can kind of work around it a little bit. It's not something I'm worried about, that's for sure."
Hanrahan is heartened by the supporting cast he'll join in the bullpen. In addition to Bailey, there's Junichi Tazawa, Koji Uehara, Daniel Bard, Alfredo Aceves, Craig Breslow, Franklin Morales and Andrew Miller.
"I don't think anybody can have too many of anything," he said of the embrassment of riches. "That can shorten a ballgame for you and that's what we're looking to do.
"I think everbody down there throws 94 (mph) plus. I'm not too familiar with everyone here, but I know there's some good arms, guys with good (track records). I'm looking forward to working with these guys and hopefully we can turn the bullpen into one of our strengths."
One of those supporting cast members is Bailey, who missed the first four and a half months of last season following a freak thumb injury, then faltered in the final six weeks of the season, leading the Sox to re-assess his role.
"That's never easy," said Hanrahan of Bailey's demotion. "That was the situation when I got traded over here. I wasn't sure what was going to be happening. He's a great guy. I think he's got a lot to prove this year himself and he's looking forward to going out and competing."
For his part, Bailey has been gracious and accepting of the change.
"Ben (Cherington) had given me a little heads up (before the trade)," recalled Bailey, "and I said, 'Whatever makes us better...' I only get to play this game for a certain amount of time and I want to win. The accolades are great in the role of the closer, but ultimately, I think everyone here wants to win. That's the goal."
It's quite possible that given the glut of relievers and Bailey's past success in the role, he could be traded before the season, or perhaps during the year if a need arises.
Bailey, though, is hoping to stay, even if it's in a lesser role.
"I love it here," said Bailey. "The team we have is a winner, contender. We do have a deep bullpen. Starters only have to go four or five innings. Obviously, everyone's goal as a reliever is to close and I've said before, I don't think my closing days are done and I certainly hope they're not done in Boston. I love the city. I love being here. It's close to home for me."
When a reporter asked how he would approach going from pitching the ninth to the eighth, he answered: "I don't know -- got any advice?"
Turning more serious, Bailey added: "For me it doesn't change. I still have to throw up zeroes, whether's it's the eighth, ninth, seventh, whatever it is. I still have to do my job. Whatever inning it is, I still have to get the ball to Joel.
"For me, it's still going out and doing my job. I'm still going about the same routine I always have. I just get to walk out there an inning earlier."
And, as Bailey knows from experience, things can change.