Hanrahan is still learning the ropes with Red Sox

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FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Joel Hanrahan has plenty of time to worry about retiring sluggers in the American League East Division. Right now, he faces more immediate tasks.

"There's a lot of new faces to learn," Hanrahan said. "Unfortunately, the coaches don't always wear name tags."

A deal that sent Hanrahan, 31, to the Boston Red Sox after last season eventually became a when-not-if proposition. Hanrahan was entering his final year of arbitration, making him eligible for a hefty raise. The Pirates re-signed setup man Jason Grilli. And there were the rumors.

"Heck, the Boston rumors started in April last year," Hanrahan said.

So, when the Pirates sent the right-hander to the Red Sox Dec. 26 as part of a six-player trade, Hanrahan was prepared.

"Getting traded wasn't a surprise to me," he said. "I was expecting it."

The Pirates traded Hanrahan and Brock Holt to Boston in exchange for right-handers Mark Melancon and Stolmy Pimentel, infielder Ivan DeJesus Jr. and outfielder Jerry Sands. In doing so, they parted with 76 saves over the past two seasons.

Hanrahan joined the Red Sox after a season of turmoil. In their only season under manager Bobby Valentine, the Red Sox finished 69-93, last in the AL East. Closer Andrew Bailey got hurt, and Melancon struggled in that role before Alfredo Aceves took it over and saved 25 games.

The Red Sox fired Valentine after the season and hired John Farrell, their former pitching coach, who had one season remaining on his contract as manager of the Toronto Blue Jays.

Farrell pitched in the majors for parts of eight seasons before becoming a coach.

"He kind of knows pitchers, what they need, what kind of time off they need," Hanrahan said. "He's good with communication."

Hanrahan also joined a lively clubhouse, headed by second baseman Dustin Pedroia and designated hitter David Ortiz.

"Pedroia, he's one of the funniest guys I've ever been around, and I've only been around for three weeks," Hanrahan said. "[Jonny] Gomes has some good ones. When the group gets a little smaller, it will be a little more funny as well."

He has kept in touch with some of the Pirates, such as Neil Walker, Pedro Alvarez and Grilli -- "He was talking about how you guys want to talk to him more often now," Hanrahan joked -- and pitching coach Ray Searage and bullpen coach Euclides Rojas. Hanrahan said Grilli, who will assume the closer's role at 36, will perform well.

"He's going to be fine," Hanrahan said. "He's been around. He knows how to pitch. I don't think the pressure's going to get to him."

Hanrahan compared Grilli to himself after the 2010 season, when Hanrahan struck out 100 in 692/3 innings, often as the setup man, and became the closer the next season. Grilli struck out 90 in 582/3 innings last year.

"He had a lot of strikeouts," Hanrahan said. "That's basically the same season I was coming off of. His ERA was a little better. I had a rough game in there where I gave up six runs. It's almost identical."

The circumstances that sent Hanrahan to Boston differed drastically from those that brought him to Pittsburgh. When he left the Washington Nationals in 2009, he did so with a 7.71 ERA and 28 runs allowed in 322/3 innings. This winter, he was a coveted commodity, a two-time All-Star.

"It's nice to have teams that want you," he said. "It's nice to be in that position where somebody feels like you're valuable and can help their team out.

"My goal's not to go out there and show the Pirates that you shouldn't have traded me. I'm going to go out and do what I can to make the Red Sox feel good about the trade."

Changing teams in the winter rather than mid-season made the transition simpler for Hanrahan and his wife, Kim, who are expecting their first child Monday. The timing allowed Hanrahan to attend the early doctors' appointments in Boston.

Pirates defeat Red Sox

Jeff Locke pitched four innings and allowed one run in the Pirates' 9-3 win Wednesday against the Red Sox at JetBlue Park. Locke fell behind 10 of the 17 batters he faced and walked two, but struck out three and allowed three hits.

"He's in the area," manager Clint Hurdle said. "He just had a much better outing than he did the last time he was here."

Jonathan Sanchez walked two and allowed one run on two hits in two-thirds of an inning. He has walked seven in 31/3 innings this spring.

"He's trying to find the happy medium between letting it go and throwing strikes," Hurdle said.

"My goal's not to go out there and show the Pirates that you shouldn't have traded me. I'm going to go out and do what I can to make the Red Sox feel good about the trade."

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Bill Brink: bbrink@post-gazette.com and on Twitter: @BrinkPG. First Published March 7, 2013 5:15 AM


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