Commentary

Joel Hanrahan likes look of Fenway

New home ballpark makes big first impression on Red Sox closer-to-be

Updated: January 8, 2013, 11:09 PM ET
By Gordon Edes | ESPNBoston.com

BOSTON -- Joel Hanrahan is a big man. With a different type of chin hair than the swatch he models, you might even call him Lincolnesque, if Abe had lifted in the offseason.

According to the tale of the tape, Hanrahan is the biggest man on the Boston Red Sox's 40-man roster, listed at 6-foot-4, 255 pounds, three inches shorter than Andrew Miller but five pounds heavier than David Ortiz's listed weight. You might have heard, they grow 'em big in Iowa.

Size was on Hanrahan's mind when Boston's new closer got his first look at Fenway Park, never having visited while growing up in Des Moines or having played there in six seasons in the National League. It all looked bigger than he'd seen it in the movies -- he mentioned "The Town" -- and on TV.

[+] EnlargeJoel Hanrahan
AP Photo/Elise AmendolaJoel Hanrahan seemed very relaxed in meeting the Boston media, a trait that could suit him well as Red Sox closer.

"I thought the place was amazing," he said in a session with reporters afterward. "A lot bigger than I thought it was."

The Green Monster?

"A lot higher than I thought it was. I thought I was looking from a seventh-floor apartment."

Manager John Farrell, who was on the phone in his office when Hanrahan passed through the clubhouse?

"A lot bigger guy than I thought he was," said Hanrahan, who will be wearing the No. 52 jersey Farrell wore in his previous incarnation as Red Sox pitching coach.

Fenway had a way of cutting Sox closers down to size last year. Mark Melancon, who like Hanrahan last pitched for a team in the National League Central (Houston for Melancon, Pittsburgh for Hanrahan) flamed out early and was dealt to the Pirates in the Hanrahan deal. Andrew Bailey, who came from Oakland in a trade that cost the Sox outfielder Josh Reddick, was injured in spring training and ineffective when he returned; Bailey already has been told that he will be stepping aside as closer for Hanrahan.

The 31-year-old Hanrahan, like Bailey a two-time All-Star in a milieu not regarded as daunting as the American League East, understands if there is skepticism about whether he can measure up to the job.

"That's fine," he said. "You have to go back and look. My job is to get three people out in the ninth inning before I give up the lead.

"I feel like I've been in some big games. 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 type of pitcher I am. I come after guys, I'm going to give up some hits, stuff like that.

"No matter where you go, you're going to have doubters anyway. I'm not going to pay any attention to that. My job is to go out and save victories for the team. If we have a three-run lead and I give up two runs, I'm going to be the same guy, happy that we won."

Hanrahan understated his abilities as a strikeout pitcher. Last season, when he recorded 36 saves for the Pirates, he averaged 10.11 strikeouts per nine innings, not much below the mark former Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon (11.83 per 9) put up in his first season with the Phillies. Hanrahan actually induced a higher percentage of swings and misses (12.6 percent) than Papelbon (12.2 percent), according to Fangraphs.com, and his average fastball velocity was two miles an hour faster (95.8 to 93.8). He also features a slider that hitters often chase.

He caught the attention of the Red Sox in a 2011 interleague game in Pittsburgh when he struck out Adrian Gonzalez for the final out in a 6-4 win. They played that one over and over on the video scoreboard in PNC Park, he said. "Every strikeout to me is awesome," he said.

In his first meeting with the Boston media since the Sox acquired him, Hanrahan came across as relaxed and very much at ease, even though he noted he'd never been interviewed in such numbers before. He described himself as laid-back, a personality trait he believes will serve him well in a pressured environment.

He said he'll be studying the roster to get acquainted with his new teammates. He has worked out in Texas the past two seasons with Will Middlebrooks, played in the World Baseball Classic in 2009 with Dustin Pedroia, and roomed in the minor leagues with Shane Victorino (Las Vegas, 2004).

He met Papelbon at the All-Star Game last season and described him as "interesting … I liked him."

Shipping up to Boston? No, the entrance music will be Slipknot or Stone Sour, metal bands with Des Moines roots. "Got to get those Iowa roots out there when I can," he said. "And I'm not going to be doing any dancing like [Papelbon] did."

Gordon Edes

Red Sox reporter, ESPNBoston.com

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