Joel Hanrahan on Tuesday walked through the front door of his new home — Fenway Park. Now, it’s time for the new Red Sox closer to make himself comfortable.
Having spent his entire career in the National League, first with the Nationals and then with the Pirates, Hanrahan has never pitched in Fenway. That’ll change this season, when he’ll not only take the mound in the shadows of the Green Monster, but he’ll also be pitching in the pressure-packed moments of the ninth inning.
It’s a challenge Hanrahan, a two-time All-Star, is looking forward to.
“I really get into it when the crowd gets going. The hardest part for me is going to be to tune that out some,” Hanrahan told reporters on Tuesday. “Last year, we had a lot of games in the middle of the summer where it was a sold out crowd and it felt like it did in 2011 when we played the Red Sox there in Pittsburgh. Those are the moments that you live for — the situation that you dream of. To be able to experience that 81 games next year is going to be an awesome feeling, just being able to tone that down some in your head, that’s what you have to learn, I guess.”
Pitching in Boston is a far cry from pitching in Pittsburgh. The media and fan scrutiny is intense in Boston, and the Red Sox have had more meaningful games — at least until last season — in recent years. Hanrahan thinks he’ll benefit from his laid-back personality, though, and he made it clear Tuesday that he likes to have fun.
If Hanrahan pitches like the closer who has been to back-to-back Midsummer Classics, the Boston experience will be even more enjoyable, as Red Sox Nation has always held Beantown’s premier performers in high regard. And although there weren’t 38,000 screaming fans at Fenway to welcome Hanrahan on Tuesday, the right-hander is already impressed by his new stomping grounds.
“It’s a lot nicer than I thought it was going to be,” Hanrahan said. “Obviously, they’ve put some money into it over the years.
“I thought, this place is amazing. A lot bigger than I thought it was. Obviously a ton of history here. Got to go up on the top of the monster, see what it’s like from that angle. I know my wife is going to be begging me to sit out there one day. It looked great. Got to go in the clubhouse for the first time, try to see where my new office is. I’m definitely excited. It looks great.”
The park isn’t the only thing Hanrahan thinks looks great, though. The big righty was quick to point out the talent already assembled in Boston’s pen, a unit he feels was slighted a bit by the MLB Network, which didn’t include the Red Sox on its list of top five bullpens.
“Andrew Miller‘s always been one of those guys to watch for to see what he’s going to do,” Hanrahan said. “I remember watching him as a starter coming up through Florida… big arm. [Franklin] Morales has another big arm. I feel like [Craig] Breslow‘s been getting people out for 12 years now. [Koji] Uehara‘s had a great career. Andrew Bailey, I think if he comes back healthy, he’s got a lot of prove this year so he’s going to be coming out strong. I’m not sure what the plans are with [Daniel] Bard but that’s another big arm down there. There’s a lot of arms that could get the job done at any time.”
Those guys are all capable of getting the job done “at any time,” but in order for the Red Sox’ pitching staff to take a step forward in 2013, it’ll be crucial that the bullpen comes through “all the time.”
With Hanrahan in the mix, that task has become a whole lot easier.