BOSTON (AP) — New Red Sox closer Joel Hanrahan visited Fenway Park for first time in his life yesterday.
Hanrahan, a fan of baseball history, arranged a guided tour — complete with a contingent of media following close behind. He started with the home clubhouse, walked out to left field to see behind the wall where the manual scoreboard is operated, then scaled the wall to check out the view from the Green Monster seats.
“I thought, ‘This place is amazing,’” he said. “A lot bigger than I thought it was. Obviously a ton of history here.”
And the Red Sox expect Hanrahan to add to it.
Boston, which acquired him in a trade with the Pirates in December, introduced him yesterday at the classic ballpark.
“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.”
Hanrahan, 31, who went 5-2 with a 2.72 ERA and 36 saves last year in Pittsburgh, has his work cut out for him in Boston. The Red Sox finished 2012 at 69-93, last in the American League East. They have not been to the postseason since 2009 when they were swept by the Angels in the ALDS.
In his last two seasons, he helped lead a bit of a baseball renaissance in Pittsburgh, where attendance and interest jumped at PNC Park. Though the Pirates faded in both seasons down the stretch, he still posted 76 saves and a 2.24 ERA.
He also recorded 128 strikeouts while holding opponents to a .205 batting average in that span, and was named a National League All-Star both seasons. He and Atlanta’s Craig Kimbrel are the only pitchers to collect at least 35 saves and post an ERA under 3.00 in both seasons.
“I think any baseball fan wants the chance to play here,” he said, while also noting Boston’s rivalry with the Yankees. “They want a chance to play in that other place in New York (too). As a baseball player, and a fan, you want to experience that and I’m excited to get that feeling this year.”
Along with Angel Stadium, Target Field (Twins), and U.S Cellular Field (White Sox), Fenway is one of the four ballparks the right-hander has never pitched in.
Last season, Red Sox relievers posted a combined record of 21-21 with a 3.88 ERA, better than only three other American League teams. The total of 35 saves — better than only the Blue Jays’ 29 in the AL — was one behind Hanrahan’s total for the season.
Either way, Hanrahan believes the Boston bullpen has potential.
“Andrew Miller’s always been one of those guys to watch for to see what he’s going to do,” he said. “There’s a lot of arms that could get the job done at any time.
“I was looking at something on the plane where MLB Network had the top five bullpens and I was thinking they might throw us on there (too). We’ll have to work our way onto there.
“But we belong there.”
Hanrahan, who pitched for the Nationals as well, is eager to make the jump to the AL, regardless of what people say about it.
“My job is to get three people out in the ninth inning before I give up the lead so I feel like I’ve been in some big games,” he said. “I feel like I’ve been in some tough spots. I’m not going to go out there and strike out the side every time. That’s not the kind of pitcher that I am. I’m going to come after guys and I’m going to give up some hits and stuff like that. But no matter where you go, you’re going to have doubters.
“So, I just try not to pay attention to that. My job is to go out there and save the victory for the team, and if we have a three-run lead, and I give up two runs, and we win that game, I’m going to be the same guy. I’m going to be happy that we won that game, and I think my laid-back personality will back that. And I like to have fun, too.”
One of the most memorable moments in his career, Hanrahan said, was on June 25, 2011, at PNC Park. Hanrahan, who likes to feed off the crowd, struck out then-Red Sox first baseman Adrian Gonzalez with the Pirates leading by two runs and a runner on second to end the game. The Pirates won two of three games in that interleague series. Hanrahan saved both victories.
“Every strikeout, to me, is awesome,” he said. “In 2011, that was the time that the Pirates, everyone knew their history and we were right there in the middle of it. That was a big series for us. That kind of showed us that we could play with anybody at the time.
“So, I think that’s one of the things people remember.”
He hopes to create even more memories with his new team ... in his new park.