Hanrahan, Bailey looking to turn Red Sox bullpen into strength

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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.

Drellich: MLB could explain umpire rulings more often

Drellich: MLB could explain umpire rulings more often

BOSTON — We know that Red Sox manager John Farrell did something wrong. In the absence of any sort of formal announcement otherwise, we’re left to assume the umpires did everything properly — but there’s room for MLB to make that clearer.

If the NBA can put out Last 2 Minute reports, why can’t MLB provide more regular explanations or reviews of contested calls?

Farrell on Tuesday said he’d like to see more public accountability in the umpiring realm, hours before the manager was to sit out Game No. 77. Farrell was suspended one game for making contact with crew chief Bill Miller on Saturday night as manager and umpire rained spittle on each other over a balk call that went against the Sox.

Well, was it a balk or not? Did Miller do anything wrong as well?

“I don’t know if there was anything levied on the other side,” Farrell said. “I don’t know that.”

But would he like such matters to always be public?

“I think there have been strides made in that way,” Farrell said. “I guess I would. I think everyone in uniform would prefer that to be made public. Whether or not that happens, I don’t know, but that would be a choice I would make.”

The league has a thorough internal review system. But it is just that: internal. Most of the time, any way.

On most every night at Fenway Park, there is someone on hand watching just the umpires and reviewing them.

MLB, to its credit, has announced suspensions for umpires in the past. The league has made public acknowledgments when calls have been made incorrectly. More of that seems viable — even if it’s an announcement to reaffirm that the call was made and handled properly, and here are the reasons why.

“I haven’t received any further determination or review of what transpired,” Farrell said. “My position, my stance, remains steadfast. I still firmly believe that time was called [before the balk call was made]. I wasn’t arguing the balk. I was arguing the timing of it. As I reiterated today to those that I spoke with, I still stand by my side of the argument. Unfortunately, there was contact made.”

Drellich: Hanley Ramirez has to improve or Red Sox need to try others

Drellich: Hanley Ramirez has to improve or Red Sox need to try others

BOSTON — It doesn’t really matter what’s holding Hanley Ramirez back: his health, his desire to play through injuries, neither, both. The Red Sox need him to hit better as the designated hitter, or give someone else a chance in his place.

Tuesday is June 27. From May 27 on, Ramirez is hitting .202 with a .216 on-base percentage and .369 slugging percentage.

Putting Ramirez on the disabled list so that he can heal up, or at least attempt to, would be reasonable. If you can’t hit well — if you can’t even be in the lineup, as has been the case the last two days — you're hampering the roster.

Ramirez was out of the lineup for a second straight game on Tuesday because of his left knee, which was hit by a pitch Sunday. He’s been bothered by his shoulders all season.

“He’s improved today. He’s responding to treatment,” manager John Farrell said Tuesday of Ramirez’s knee. “He’s still going through some work right now. Would get a bat in his hand here shortly to determine if he’s available to pinch hit tonight. Prior to yesterday’s game, day to day, and still in that status, but he is improving.”

The route to better production doesn’t matter. As long as the Sox get some, be it from Ramirez or somewhere else. Flat-out benching Ramirez in favor of Chris Young or Sam Travis or both for a time should be on the table.

When it comes to lineups vs. lefties, Farrell might be thinking the same way. 

Farrell was asked Tuesday if he’d consider playing someone at DH other than Ramirez for performance reasons.

“I wouldn’t rule it out,” Farrell said. “Where he was so good against left-handed pitching last year, that’s been still a work in progress, for lack of a better way to describe it. So we’re always looking to put the best combination on the field.”

A right-handed hitter, Ramirez is just 5-for-35 (.143) vs. lefties this season, after hitting .346 against them a year ago.

On the flip side: in the final three months of the 2016 season, Ramirez hit .300 with a .379 OBP and .608 slugging percentage overall. That’s from the start of July through the end of the regular season vs. all pitchers.

“You know, the one thing you can’t completely turn away from is what Hanley did last year,” Farrell said. “While I know that’s last year, we’re still working to get some increased performance from him. I think he’s still a key member in our lineup. The presence he provides, the impact that he’s capable of. And yet, we’re still working to get there.”

Farrell said the team hasn’t been able to pinpoint a particular reason for Ramirez’s struggles vs. southpaws.

“No,” Farrell said. “There’s been extensive video review. There’s been extensive conversations with him. There’s been stretches, short stretches, where he’s I think shown the approach at the plate and the all field ability to drive the baseball. That’s been hit and miss a little bit. So, we’re just trying to gain a consistency that he’s been known for.”

Mitch Moreland's been playing with a fractured big toe in his left foot. After he homered and had another impactful night Monday, Farrell made some comments that are hard to read as anything but a message to Ramirez.

“In [Moreland's] most recent stretch, he’s been able to get on top of some fastballs that have been at the top of the strike zone or above for some power obviously,” Farrell said. “But I think the way he’s gone about it given the physical condition he’s in, is a strong message to the remainder of this team.”

Asked about that comment a day later, Farrell shot down the idea he was trying to reach Ramirez or anyone else with that remark about playing hurt.

“No,” Farrell said Tuesday. “I respect the question, but that was to highlight a guy who has been dealing with a broken toe, continues to perform at a high level and to compliment Mitch for the way he’s gone about it.”

It doesn't matter why Ramirez isn't producing, at a certain point. Either he is or he isn't. If not, they need to be willing to give someone else an extended look, whether it lands Ramirez on the DL or simply the bench.