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Thursday, April 11, 2013
Farrell on Hanrahan: 'He's our closer'

By Tony Lee, Special to ESPNBoston.com

BOSTON -- A day after Joel Hanrahan blew a ninth-inning lead in explosive fashion, Red Sox manager John Farrell continued to support his hard-throwing righty.

“He’s our closer,” Farrell stressed in the hours before the Sox were to play the Baltimore Orioles in the finale of a three-game set at Fenway Park.

Hanrahan gave up five runs in two-thirds of an inning in Boston’s 8-5 loss Wednesday night, serving up a pair of homers that ran his total in that category to three in just 4 2/3 innings this season. It’s been an auspicious beginning to his Red Sox career for Hanrahan, who also limped to the finish line in 2012 with Pittsburgh, where he had an ERA of 5.00 and 10 walks in nine innings last September.

That is far too small a sample size for Farrell to make any rash decisions.

“I think Joel is well aware of what took place last night,” Farrell said, before stressing the confidence he has in those who will fill in while Hanrahan sits following a 32-pitch outing. “Yeah, we do [have a lot of options]. With Andrew Bailey, with [Koji] Uehara, [Junichi] Tazawa, obviously [Andrew] Miller ready to go tonight, [Clayton] Mortensen is available. We’ve got a full complement behind Alfredo [Aceves]. If in fact we need to stay away from Joel tonight just to give him some recovery, we feel confident we can build back to a guy that’s had a lot of closing experience in the past.”

Hanrahan’s implosion Wednesday denied him of his 100th career save. All but three of those were recorded with a bad Washington team or in Pittsburgh, where losing was a habit and the pressure of the ninth-inning shutdown may not have been the same as it is under the bright lights of Fenway Park (even on a night when the sellout streak comes to an end).

Hanrahan did have three scoreless innings on the road before the Orioles tagged him for six runs on five hits in 1 2/3 innings in two appearances at home.

Farrell recognizes the difference in market size from Pittsburgh to Boston. He also recognizes a ninth-inning mentality that exists no matter where the save opportunity arises and can, at times, contribute to an unhealthy uptick in adrenaline.

“I think it points more toward aggressiveness,” he said when asked what contributed to the blown save. “Any time you overthrow a little bit you’re going to sacrifice some location for velocity. By no means would we ask Joel to try to throw with less velocity, but prioritizing location is really any pitcher’s goal going in. We recognize that those ninth innings, there’s a lot of adrenaline to harness. He’s had a lot of success doing that. Last night was a game that unfortunately got away from him.”

In addition to harnessing that adrenaline, Hanrahan may be going through an adjustment period that has hindered countless pitchers who move from the National League to the American League. Farrell called AL lineups “a different animal” than those in the senior circuit, and the early home run rate against Hanrahan suggest as much.

In other news:

* There is no specific pitch count on Alfredo Aceves, who threw 56 in relief of John Lackey on Saturday and maxed out at 36 in spring training.

“I think the way the game unfolds and the stress with the pitches that he throws will have a lot to do with when his night is over,” Farrell said. “Hopefully that’s later rather than sooner. But we’re confident with him going to the mound here. ... Without giving a hard number, we’re hoping he’s walking out for the sixth inning or beyond.”

Aceves has not started since June 21, 2011. He threw a career-high 98 pitches in that game.

* The Red Sox are aiming to win their third straight series to start the season for the first time since 1952. The last time the club won that many series in a row at any time was -- remarkably -- last season, when it took five straight in June.

* Boston has struck out at least 10 batters in five straight games, matching the longest streak in franchise history. Not a coincidence, says Farrell.

“I think it’s a reflection of the type of stuff we have,” he said. “I think overall it’s a matter of the talent that our pitching staff has, the swing-and-miss ability, and very good secondary pitches that they have.”