Red Sox deal for new closer

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Red Sox deal for new closer

From Comcast SportsNetBOSTON (AP) -- If Joel Hanrahan can do for the Boston Red Sox what he did against them, they should be very happy with their new closer.In the first of his two All-Star seasons, the right-hander posted back-to-back saves for the Pittsburgh Pirates with perfect ninth innings against the Red Sox in June 2011. He struck out Adrian Gonzalez, who entered the series batting .359, to end the second game."When people look back on me as a Pirate, that's the one that stands out the most to them," Hanrahan said Wednesday after being obtained in a six-player trade.People such as Red Sox assistant general manager Brian O'Halloran."It definitely made an impression on me," he said. "It was not fun to be in the batter's box against Joel Hanrahan."Now American League hitters will see what it's like.Boston completed the deal Wednesday, also receiving infielder Brock Holt. The Red Sox gave up right-handers Mark Melancon and Stolmy Pimentel, infielder Ivan DeJesus Jr. and first baseman-outfielder Jerry Sands.The Red Sox also announced the signing of free agent shortstop Stephen Drew, who agreed to a one-year contract early last week. The reported 9.5 million deal was contingent on Drew passing a physical. The former Oakland Athletic and Arizona Diamondback broke his ankle in 2011."We feel that he's going to be fully healthy for us," O'Halloran said.The acquisition of Drew and Hanrahan are the latest in a series of moves designed to improve on a 69-93 record and a last-place finish in the AL East. The Red Sox already have obtained right-handers Ryan Dempster and Koji Uehara, outfielders Shane Victorino and Johnny Gomes and catcher David Ross.Over the past two seasons, Hanrahan had 76 saves, fourth most in the National League, and a 2.24 ERA. Last season, he was 5-2 with a 2.72 ERA and 36 saves.The six-year veteran will take over the closer's role that Alfredo Aceves struggled in most of last season before giving way to Andrew Bailey, who had missed most of the season with a right thumb injury.In his first season with Boston, Bailey was 1-1 with a 7.04 ERA and six saves in nine opportunities over 19 games.Manager John Farrell has talked with Hanrahan and Bailey and told them that Hanrahan will be the closer, although "we see Andrew as playing a very important role," O'Halloran said.The Red Sox's search for a closer began when Jonathan Papelbon signed as a free agent with the Philadelphia Phillies after the 2011 season.Hanrahan figured he was part of that quest when he heard his name in trade rumors involving the Red Sox, Detroit Tigers and Los Angeles Dodgers."I got excited" when he learned of the trade, Hanrahan said. "Obviously, the Red Sox have a great history and tradition and it's a huge sports city."In six seasons, 2 12 with the Washington Nationals and 3 12 with the Pirates, he's 22-17 with a 3.74 ERA and 96 saves in 117 chances. His best season was 2011 when he went 1-4 with a 1.83 ERA, 40 saves in 44 opportunities and just 16 walks in 68 2-3 innings. His control slipped last season when he walked 36 in 59 2-3 innings.Hanrahan said hamstring and ankle problems affected his pitching mechanics."I don't think the walks are going to be a concern," he said. "I feel good going to spring training."Hanrahan said he's never been to Fenway Park, but O'Halloran doesn't think he'll have trouble adjusting to the American League."Joel Hanrahan has the stuff to pitch anywhere," he said.Holt spent most of last season at Double-A Altoona, then hit .292 in 24 games with the Pirates, all in September.Melancon was 0-2 with a 6.20 ERA in 41 relief appearances in his only season with Boston. Pimentel spent the season at Double-A Portland. Sands and DeJesus were obtained in a trade that sent Gonzalez, Josh Beckett and Carl Crawford to the Dodgers on Aug. 25.

BRITISH OPEN: Spieth, Kuchar, Koepka in lead with 65s after Round 1

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BRITISH OPEN: Spieth, Kuchar, Koepka in lead with 65s after Round 1

SOUTHPORT, England -The wind off the Irish Sea pushed away the rain clouds and bathed Royal Birkdale in sunshine, Stars and Stripes.

The British Open began Thursday with an All-American flavor.

Jordan Spieth, chomping away on gum as he watched one putt after another pour into the center of the cup, worked some bunker magic of his own late in the round to keep his card filled only with birdies and pars for a 5-under 65.

U.S. Open champion Brooks Koepka, with no competition and barely any practice since capturing his first major a month ago, ran off three straight birdies and holed a tough shot from a pot bunker for eagle on the par-5 17th hole for a 5-under 65.

Joining them was Matt Kuchar, who first endeared himself to these British fans as a 19-year-old amateur in 1998 at Royal Birkdale. Kuchar tied the course record with a 29 on the front nine, only to fall into a routine of pars the rest of the way. He still shot 65, his best score ever in a major.

They had a one-shot lead over Paul Casey and Charl Schwartzel on a day that started nasty and ended with 39 players breaking par. The biggest question after a long day on the links was what was in store for Friday, when high wind and occasional showers were in the forecast.

"I thought today's round was extremely important, as they all are," Spieth said, atop the leaderboard at a major for the first time since last year's Masters. "But given the forecast coming in, I thought you really needed to be in the red today. You can certainly make up ground in a round tomorrow, and we'll see it happen. But being able to kind of play with shots, or play a little more conservative because you don't try to do too much on a day like tomorrow, that's nice and very helpful."

Dustin Johnson and Rory McIlroy fall into that category.

Johnson, the No. 1 player who hasn't played the weekend at a major since the British Open last year, managed only one birdie on a decent day for scoring and shot 71. McIlroy also shot 71 and was relieved. Coming off three missed cuts in his last four events, he was 5 over through six holes when his caddie gave him a pep talk. McIlroy closed with three birdies over the last four holes to stay in the game.

Phil Mickelson failed to make a birdie, the first time that has happened in a major in five years, and shot 73.

Kuchar was the only one at 65 who played in the afternoon. The wind remained strong, though the course was manageable for everyone who stayed out of bunkers and deep grass and who holed putts.

"I watched some of the golf this morning on TV. It looked awfully challenging," Kuchar said. "It looked like anything under par was going to be a good score. Seemed like the later your tee time, the better draw you got. ... For me, to start my British Open with a 29 on the front nine is a great way to start."

Charley Hoffman had the best start of all, holing out from the rough on the daunting opening hole for an eagle. He was poised to join the leaders when he reached 5 under with a birdie on the 15th, only to drop shots on the next two holes. Hoffman shot 69 and was in a group that included Ian Poulter and Rafa Cabrera Bello.

Defending champion Henrik Stenson, who played with Spieth, had a 71. Stenson also played with Spieth the first two rounds of the 2015 Masters that the Texan won wire-to-wire and knew what to expect.

"He was rolling it superbly that week, and I don't think it was that far behind today," Stenson said.

But his best shot was with his feet in the sand. Spieth was in thick rough to the right of the 16th fairway when his shot crept into the back of a pot bunker. Not only was the ball on a slight slope, the rake marks left his ball between two ridges.

"This is dangerous," he said to his caddie.

He aimed to the right of the hole to avoid it going off the green on the other side and into another bunker, and it came off perfectly about 10 feet away.

"That was awesome," were his next words to his caddie.

He made the par putt - Spieth made a lot of putts on picked up a two-putt birdie on the 17th and narrowly missed a 7-foot birdie putt on the last. It was his best start in a major since he shot 66 at the Masters a year ago. Spieth rated it among the top five or six rounds he has ever played in a major, not bad for someone who came close to the Grand Slam two years ago.

"I couldn't have done much better today," he said.

Royal Birkdale was much more kind than it was nine years ago in raging wind and rain. The 146th Open began in cool temperatures, a light rain and a strong wind. Mark O'Meara, a winner at Royal Birkdale in 1998 who is playing in his last British Open, hit the opening tee shot.

And then he hit another one.

O'Meara's first shot was lost in the gorse, he made a quadruple-bogey 8 and was on his way to an 81. His threesome required 18 shots to play that hole. But the weather settled down a few hours later, and the scorecards filled up with plenty of birdies and eagles.

Just not for McIlroy until late in the round, or Johnson and Mickelson all day.

"With the weather we're expecting tomorrow, I still feel I'm in the golf tournament," McIlroy said. "If I can go out and play a good, quality round of golf in the morning and try to get in the clubhouse somewhere around even par, under par, I'll still be around for the weekend."