Hanrahan throwing caution to the wind
Pirates closer Joel Hanrahan hopes to have a repeat of his 2011 campaign when he posted a 1.83 ERA with 40 saves.
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BRADENTON, Fla. -- There was the January wedding. Then, the 292.8 percent raise.
But, before all that, trade rumors.
A little more than a month before Joel Hanrahan and the Pirates agreed to a $4.1 million, incentive-laden contract for the 2012 season, his name was a popular subject at baseball's winter meetings.
Coming off a career year, Hanrahan is due hefty raises for '12 and '13, his final two seasons under club control. When asked at the winter meetings if signing Hanrahan to a long-term deal was a priority for the club, general manager Neal Huntington gave his familiar response -- that it had to be the "right player" for the "right contract" at the "right time."
But then, unprompted, he said "Nobody's untradeable. Nobody's untouchable." He later added he could "easily" see Hanrahan closing games for the Pirates beyond '13.
Hanrahan managed to keep his hand off the hot stove this offseason. And, it turns out, he was never really worried.
"That time has turned a little bit around here in Pittsburgh," Hanrahan said. "It's not about 'Guy has a good year and we're going to get rid of him.' It's 'Guy has a good year and we're going to build on that.'
"It's not like the teams from before."
He entered this spring training as the incumbent closer. Last season, it did not take him long to earn the closing spot in spring training -- just three days into camp.
He thrived in that role, earning an All-Star appearance, saving 40 games and posting a 1.83 ERA. Hanrahan hopes 2012 is simply an encore.
"I'm just trying to fine tune everything," Hanrahan said. "I haven't really added anything new or subtracted anything different. It's more just trying to make my stuff better."
No new or modified pitches. No tweaks to his delivery.
"Why fix something that ain't broke?" pitching coach Ray Searage said.
The biggest difference this year, Searage said, is when Hanrahan pitches in spring training games. He has made only two appearances, but both times he pitched early in the game, while the opposing team's major leaguers were still in the game.
"It increases his intensity of focus," Searage said.
So far, the approach has worked. Hanrahan has retired all six batters he has faced this spring, striking out four.
There are no guarantees Hanrahan will stick with the Pirates through the '12 season, especially if the team is far from first place before the trade deadline. With one more year of arbitration, his salary will surely grow this offseason.
And even though Evan Meek has struggled early this spring, the front office has previously considered him a candidate for closer.
But Hanrahan is paying no mind to any external distractions.
"I just try to go out there when they give me the ball in the ninth inning and try to seal that victory for us," he said. "That's all I'm really worried about."
Starter Charlie Morton made his Grapefruit League debut, allowing four hits in two scoreless innings, but the Pirates lost to the Phillies, 4-1, Monday at McKechnie Field.
Morton was not crisp and put a runner in scoring position in each inning. But he said it was a big step for him to pitch to an opposing lineup and in front of a crowd.
"Now I can start zeroing in on what I want to work on and things that I did well, things that I didn't do well and all that good stuff," he said.
Morton got a slow start in spring training after offseason hip surgery, but he said he is on track to stick with the major league team through opening day.
"I can throw long toss, I can throw as many bullpens and live BPs and simulated games as I want," Morton said. "But no one's going to be ready until they face lineups in front of a crowd."
He said his command was off, and his sinker was only moderately affective.
"The training wheels are off," manager Clint Hurdle said.
The Pirates lineup struggled for a second consecutive day. Phillies starter Vance Worley was perfect in four innings, and the Pirates produced just two hits.
Another group of Pirates played an exhibition game against the Netherlands, winning, 8-2, at Al Lang Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. Catcher Michael McKenry hit a home run and a triple and drove in six runs.
Brad Lincoln, who was scheduled to make a relief appearance against the Phillies on Monday, did not pitch because of right calf tightness, according to a team release. Kyle McPherson also did not make a scheduled relief appearance because of "dead arm-like" symptoms, according to the team.
Both pitchers are listed as day to day.
Catcher Rod Barajas left Bradenton on Sunday to be in San Diego with his wife for the birth of the couple's seventh child. Barajas is scheduled to return Wednesday and will return to the lineup Friday. ... Minor league catching coordinator and Gulf Coast League manager Tom Prince received the second annual "Chuck Tanner We-Are-Fam-a-Lee" award. The family of the late manager established the fund last season to honor a minor league staff member who shares some of Tanner's finer qualities.
First Published March 13, 2012 12:00 am