“Looked like a strike anyway.”
That’s probably what John Farrell thought after his closer Joel Hanrahan finally put one across the plate after throwing 5 straight balls to start the ninth inning of a tie ball game – at least he thought that after cringing, because the last time Hanrahan got one over “the guy hit one that hasn’t landed yet.”
See how I did that? Worked in two quotes from the film Major League?
In the movie, pitching coach Pepper Leach said that to Manager Lou Brown after their “rookie sensation Ricky Vaughn” walked the bases loaded for the Cleveland Indians against the New York Yankees (why is it always the Yankees?), then got one across the plate to Clute Haywood, who promptly drove the ball “off the reservation and towards South America”…
…but Saturday afternoon at Fenway Park, Farrell wasn’t about to wait for ball 12 to pull his struggling righty off the mound, which he did after Hanrahan walked the first two batters of the inning to give the Tampa Bay Rays two on with no outs.
Hyperactive reliever Koji Uehara came on to shut down the Rays in impressive fashion and kept the score tied at one, then Junichi Tazawa pitched a perfect top of the 10th setting up Jacoby Ellsbury and Shane Victorino’s heroics in the bottom of the inning to pick up the win – which isn’t enough to overshadow what has been a dismal start to the season for Hanrahan.
After his last appearance on Thursday in which the beleaguered fire-baller offered up two gophers in a third of an inning, Farrell gave Hanrahan his vote of confidence and offered to the media that Hanrahan still was trying to adjust from pitching in the National League to the American League…
…which is horse hockey, of course, but most seemed to buy it as Farrell just standing behind his guy – which is well and fine, but the cautious manner in which Hanrahan pitched on Saturday suggests that his closer has lost a bit of confidence and is trying to arm balls away from everyone, and the results are predictable.
Farrell has a quandary for sure, and it doesn’t involve getting Eddie Harris to teach him the ways of “Crisco, Bardall, Vagasil” or snot balls, he needs his confidence back but the Sox can not afford to have him cutting his teeth in the American League as a closer if he can’t throw strikes and hit his spots.
All around Hanrahan, the other bullpen pitchers are putting together solid appearances and having Hanrahan’s back. Andrew Bailey, who came to the Red Sox a few years back with major closing experience with the Oakland A’s, knows what he’s going through, and is exuding confidence.
“We’ll put it together and be the best pen in the big leagues, for sure,” said Bailey, himself a candidate to take on the closer role is Hanrahan doesn’t find his mojo soon. “He’s our guy down there.”
The enthusiastic Uehara is a candidate as well, the slippery right hander has given up just one hit in five appearances and has triple donuts for an ERA, but Farrell will stick with his guy for now, which is the right thing to do, even if it’s the wrong thing to do. Only time will tell…
…in the interim, maybe they can get Pedro Cerrano to haul out his Jobu idol, offering him a cigar and rum to help Hanrahan rise out of his funk, perhaps even sacrifice a chicken to appease the eccentric God – but then again, maybe not. Can you imagine the outrage if fans got wind of the Red Sox having alcohol and chicken in the bullpen again?