Pirates' Hanrahan getting a different feel
DUNEDIN, Fla. -- The environment supplies Pirates closer Joel Hanrahan with added inspiration.
"No doubt," he said. "You feed off of that stuff."
But what happens when that stuff isn't there?
What happens when the atmosphere is far from electric; considered, at best, tepid?
Such is the case for late-inning pitchers in spring training games; guys who usually feed off the crowd but are forced to pitch in front of just a smattering of people, most of the time just a few thousand. On top of that, closers don't work in their traditional ninth-inning role in the early portion of spring, but are often inserted earlier in the game. And, they pitch in a prescribed manner, sent out there even if it isn't anywhere close to a save situation.
Case in point was what Hanrahan did Wednesday against the Twins, throwing the sixth inning in a game in which Minnesota was ahead, 3-1.
For closers, who are married to routines perhaps as much as any other performers in all of sports, spring training outings can throw them off-kilter as they prepare for the upcoming season.
"It is different, sometimes it isn't easy," Hanrahan said. "But you still have to go out there and do your job. The pregame routine is different, though. Like here, in spring training, if you are pitching in the fifth you have do your stretching in the second and maybe drink your Red Bull or whatever you do in the second. Definitely a different feel, though. Because I really am a guy who feeds off the crowd."
Pitching coach Ray Searage understands the predicament a late-inning pitcher can be put into, a situation that is foreign to the usual one they face in the regular season.
"We can't simulate, down here, the atmosphere a guy like Joel is going to throw in once the season starts," Searage said. "It is a process that pitchers have to go through and, after the first couple pitches in an outing, they have to get locked in. They have to tell themselves to get that heart rate up there, get that adrenaline going, get into a rhythm like it is a regular-season game."
Such isn't the case right now, but the spring plan calls for a dovetailing toward a more realistic workload.
"Toward the end of spring, they will try to get us more into what our real roles will be," Harahan said. "Now, obviously, they are just trying to get our feel back out on the mound at this point in spring. They are just trying to get us to get used to facing hitters again and seeing competition. I see it as competition every time, but I can't wait to get back into the regular season and get into the regular atmosphere."
The Pirates defeated the Toronto Blue Jays, 4-1, Thursday in a Grapefruit League game in Dunedin, Fla.
Starter Charlie Morton, who has thrown the ball effectively in two outings this spring after a highly disappointing 2010, was solid again. He pitched three innings, gave up two hits, an earned run, struck out two and didn't walk any. He was efficient, throwing 25 pitches -- 19 for strikes.
"He's letting the ball work for him," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said of Morton. "I don't really know what happened for him before, but he has kept the ball down with great regularity this spring. It's great to see him out there competing and feeling good about himself."
Morton was sharp, but Brad Lincoln was even sharper.
Lincoln, a starter by trade, worked the fourth, fifth and sixth innings for the Pirates and retired the side in order all three times. Third baseman Pedro Alvarez had a two-out triple in the sixth.
Right-handed pitcher Evan Meek, who has a calf injury, is scheduled to throw batting practice today and Scott Olsen (hamstring) is scheduled to throw a bullpen session Saturday. Neither injury is believed to be serious.
First Published March 4, 2011 12:00 am