Hanrahan closer to home in Kansas City
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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- This All-Star Game is a bit of a happy homecoming for Joel Hanrahan.
He grew up three hours away in Des Moines, Iowa, and will have a cheering section of family and friends at Kauffman Stadium -- the closest major league park to Des Moines -- more than two-dozen strong.
He is even happier to still call PNC Park his home stadium.
For a brief moment this season, he was not certain that would still be the case come the All-Star break.
"Teams were looking for closers, and we weren't doing too well in April there when a couple closers went down," Hanrahan said. "The name came up in trade rumors and everything. I understand the business."
He packed extra bags on road trips, just in case. He rarely wandered far from his phone.
Turns out, Hanrahan is closing for a contender after all.
"I'm definitely happy that nothing happened," he said. "I enjoy Pittsburgh, and I love being there. Hopefully I get to stick around for a little while longer."
Hanrahan said it's a "good feeling" that he is not the subject of trade rumors anymore, though he called the attention "flattering." He said it is a sign the Pirates have made significant progress.
"You want to be in the position where you want to add guys to your team, not where you're subtracting guys to build for the next year," he said. "I've always said that I want to be a part of a winning team here in Pittsburgh. I think this year's going to be our year to do it."
He has been a big reason the Pirates are in that position. The team is 41-0 when leading after the seventh inning, and his 23 saves are the second most by a National League closer this season. Atlanta Braves pitcher Craig Kimbrel has 25.
He is making his second consecutive All-Star appearance -- selected by the players both times.
But it did not come easy.
He struggled to produce for the Washington Nationals when he first assumed the role. He had four blown saves in 13 opportunities in 2008, and he converted just five of his 10 save opportunities in '09, before the Nationals shipped him to the Pirates.
Having converted 63 of 70 save opportunities in the past two seasons, he is developing a reputation as one of the league's best closers.
"That's where I want my name to be," he said. "It took a lot of hard work to get there. I didn't have it the easiest way. I went through a whole lot of struggles in Washington. Everybody knows about that."
He said it was meaningful that he was twice voted an All-Star by his peers -- and not a selection just because the Pirates needed a representative. Fellow Pirates All-Star Andrew McCutchen also was voted in by players.
"That's a huge honor," he said. "It feels great that people are noticing what the Pirates are doing and what's going on there."
It will be his first time pitching at Kauffman Stadium, a place he visited as a fan when he was a kid.
At the 2011 All-Star Game in Arizona, he had about 10 family and friends in the stands. In Kansas City, he struggled to find enough tickets -- 27 -- to fulfill requests. And, he said, he imagines there will be even more people from Des Moines who will show up, whether they make it into the stadium or not.
"It's a little easier for them to get here," he said.
It was much tougher for him.
"I've always said that I want to be a part of a winning team here in Pittsburgh. I think this year's going to be our year to do it."
First Published July 10, 2012 12:00 am