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

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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.

Celtics-Heat preview: Do C's need to bounce back from a win?

Celtics-Heat preview: Do C's need to bounce back from a win?

BOSTON – The final score on the Jumbotron Friday night said the Celtics beat the Phoenix Suns 130-120.
 
But there was a clear and undeniable sense of loss on the part of the Celtics, even if Friday’s victory was their third in a row and sixth in the past seven games.
 
The Celtics (47-26) hope to continue on their winning ways tonight against a Miami Heat team currently among a handful fighting for one of the last playoff slots, but are doing so without Dion Waiters (ankle) who has been instrumental in their surge after an 11-30 start to the season.
 
Beating the Heat (35-37) will require Boston to play better than they did against the Suns, a game Boston won, but in many ways had the feeling of defeat.
 
Yes, Devin Booker’s career-high 70 points was very much a blow – a huge blow – to the pride of a team that takes tremendous pride in its defense.
 
But the sense of a loss came in the form of purpose while playing as close to their potential as possible.
 
The Celtics fell short on both fronts Friday night.
 
Being just one game behind Cleveland (47-24) for the best record in the East, the Celtics understand getting as many wins as possible is the mindset right now.
 
But coach Brad Stevens knows that while winning is important, how the team plays is even more valuable.
 
“Like I’ve said before, I’m surprised at where we are record-wise because we’ve got to play at a higher level for 48 minutes,” Stevens said. “We just don’t do it.”
 
Is this Stevens’ way of trying to motivate his players after a not-so-great performance?
 
Or is he seriously concerned that his team isn’t as good as their record?
 
The Celtics, by their own standards, and to those of us on the outside looking in, know they are a better team than the one we saw on Friday night.
 
Not having Avery Bradley (sick) certainly hurt Boston’s efforts defensively.
 
Still, a Friday night’s game wore on, Booker’s confidence only grew and the Celtics’ desire to shut him down or at least slow him down, began to dissipate like an ice cube in hell.
 
And that’s a problem - a big problem - for a team that has to be connected at both ends of the floor for an extended period of time in order to play at the level their capable of and, most important, give them the best shot at emerging victorious in the postseason.
 
That’s why Stevens isn’t too caught up in the team’s chances of catching Cleveland, or whether they go into the playoffs riding a fat winning streak.
 
“I’m not going to get caught up in winning a couple of games in a row and all that stuff,” Stevens said. “I want to get caught up in playing well. We’ve shown ourselves capable of playing well, we have not sustained it throughout a game. And it’s been pretty consistent.”
 

Win vs. Islanders 'a nice building block' for Bruins

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Win vs. Islanders 'a nice building block' for Bruins

BROOKLYN, NY – It wasn’t particularly entertaining and it won’t be all that memorable down the ride aside from the timing and importance of the meeting between the Bruins and Islanders. But it was a solid 2-1 team win for the Bruins over the Islanders at the Barclays Center on Saturday night with the B’s grinding all the way down to the end while protecting a one-goal lead through much of the third period.

Nearly everybody across Boston’s roster contributed in the major victory over the team trying to bypass them in the wild card standings, and it was a beautiful thing. Anton Khudobin stepped up when Tuukka Rask couldn’t start Saturday night’s showdown with a lower body issue, and Riley Nash supplied both Boston goals from a fourth line that’s played some of their best hockey lately.

It was unlikely heroes all around for the Black and Gold in the tightly-wound contest, but that diversity of talent and production can be a very good thing for a team looking to make that playoff push.

“You have to stay with it. You have to stay in the moment and stay with the game no matter what’s happening during the game. That’s how you get results, and that’s how you find ways to persevere through adversity,” said Patrice Bergeron. “We just got back to playing stingy, especially in the neutral zone. We got away from it the last few games, and it was nice tonight to be back playing a low-scoring game like what we’re used to playing.”

When it was all said and done the Bruins only allowed 19 shots on net and also killed off six penalties in the kind of grinding defensive showdown that you haven’t seen all that much out of the Black and Gold lately. It was exactly what Cassidy was looking for to snap the four-game losing streak, and once again start pushing the Bruins upward into the playoff chase.

“That’s the type of win that goes a long way in the room when your goaltender is battling hard and fighting that hard to see pucks and find pucks and your D are blocking shots. And you kill that many penalties. It was a nice building block for us,” said Cassidy. “From the goalie on out, everybody was in there [in the win]. It was a tough game. It was a nice Bruins win. We had been doing it with offense earlier, and we’ve got to be able to do it both ways. You need to be able to win 2-1 hockey games, and it had been awhile.”

Now it’s simply up to the Bruins to be feeling good about their latest win while going back to basics, and looking for more next time around after ending their worst losing streak of the season.