Hanrahan, Bailey looking to turn Red Sox bullpen into strength


Hanrahan, Bailey looking to turn Red Sox bullpen into strength

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.

NLCS: Cubs eliminate Dodgers, reach Series for first time since 1945


NLCS: Cubs eliminate Dodgers, reach Series for first time since 1945

CHICAGO -- Cursed by a Billy Goat, bedeviled by Bartman and crushed by decades of disappointment, the Chicago Cubs are at long last headed back to the World Series.

Kyle Hendricks outpitched Clayton KershawAnthony Rizzo and Willson Contreras homered early and the Cubs won their first pennant since 1945, beating the Los Angeles Dodgers 5-0 Saturday night in Game 6 of the NL Championship Series.

The drought ended when closer Aroldis Chapman got Yasiel Puig to ground into a double play, setting off a wild celebration inside Wrigley Field, outside the ballpark and all over the city.

Seeking their first crown since 1908, manager Joe Maddon's team opens the World Series at Cleveland on Tuesday night. The Indians haven't won it all since 1948 - Cleveland and Cubs have the two longest title waits in the majors.

"This city deserves it so much," Rizzo said. "We got four more big ones to go, but we're going to enjoy this. We're going to the World Series. I can't even believe that."

All-everything Javier Baez and pitcher Jon Lester shared the NLCS MVP. Baez hit .318, drove in five runs and made several sharp plays at second base. Lester, a former World Series champion in Boston, was 1-0 with a 1.38 ERA in two starts against the Dodgers.

Deemed World Series favorites since opening day, the Cubs topped the majors with 103 wins to win the NL Central, then beat the Giants and Dodgers in the playoffs.

The Cubs overcame a 2-1 deficit against the Dodgers and won their 17th pennant. They had not earned a World Series trip since winning a doubleheader opener 4-3 at Pittsburgh on Sept. 29, 1945, to clinch the pennant on the next-to-last day of the season.

The eternal "wait till next year" is over. No more dwelling on a history of failure - the future is now.

"We're too young. We don't care about it," star slugger Kris Bryant said. "We don't look into it. This is a new team, this is a completely different time of our lives. We're enjoying it and our work's just getting started."

Hendricks pitched two-hit ball for 7 1/3 innings. Chapman took over and closed with hitless relief, then threw both arms in the air as he was mobbed by teammates and coaches.

The crowd joined in, chanting and serenading their team.

"Chicago!" shouted popular backup catcher David Ross.

The Cubs shook off back-to-back shutout losses earlier in this series by pounding the Dodgers for 23 runs to win the final three games.

And they were in no way overwhelmed by the moment on Saturday, putting aside previous frustration.

In 1945, the Billy Goat Curse supposedly began when a tavern owner wasn't allowed to bring his goat to Wrigley. In 2003, the Cubs lost the final three games of the NLCS to Florida, punctuated with a Game 6 defeat when fan Steve Bartman deflected a foul ball.

Even as recently as 2012, the Cubs lost 101 times.

This time, no such ill luck.

Bryant had an RBI single and scored in a two-run first. Dexter Fowler added two hits, drove in a run and scored one.

Contreras led off the fourth with a homer. Rizzo continued his resurgence with a solo drive in the fifth.

That was plenty for Hendricks, the major league ERA leader.

Hendricks left to a standing ovation after Josh Reddick singled with one out in the eighth. The only other hit Hendricks allowed was a single by Andrew Toles on the game's first pitch.

Kershaw, dominant in Game 2 shutout, gave up five runs and seven hits before being lifted for a pinch hitter in the sixth. He fell to 4-7 in the postseason.

The Dodgers haven't been to the World Series since winning in 1988.

Pitching on five days' rest, the three-time NL Cy Young Award winner threw 30 pitches in the first. Fowler led off with a double, and Bryant's single had the crowd shaking the 102-year-old ballpark.

They had more to cheer when left fielder Andrew Toles dropped Rizzo's fly, putting runners on second and third, and Ben Zobrist made it 2-0 a sacrifice fly.

The Cubs added a run in the second when Addison Russell doubled to deep left and scored on a two-out single by Fowler.


Maddon benched slumping right fielder Jason Heyward in favor of Albert Almora Jr.

"Kershaw's pitching, so I wanted to get one more right-handed bat in the lineup, and also with Albert I don't feel like we're losing anything on defense," Maddon said. "I know Jason's a Gold Glover, but I think Albert, given an opportunity to play often enough would be considered a Gold Glove-caliber outfielder, too."

Heyward was 2 for 28 in the playoffs - 1 for 16 in the NLCS.


Kerry Wood, wearing a Ron Santo jersey, threw out the first pitch and actor Jim Belushi delivered the "Play Ball!" call before the game. Pearl Jam front man Eddie Vedder and actor John Cusack were also in attendance. And Bulls great Scottie Pippen led the seventh-inning stretch.