BOSTON -- For the second time in three days, Boston Red Sox manager John Farrell has had to come to the defense of his beleaguered closer, Joel Hanrahan. If the hard-throwing right-hander cannot solve his current issues, he may not get that support much longer.
Hanrahan followed up an explosive blown save in his previous outing by walking the only two men he faced in the ninth inning of Boston's 10-inning, 2-1 win over the Tampa Bay Rays on Saturday. Farrell had seen enough, summoning Koji Uehara, who stifled the threat in spectacular fashion. But the questions surrounding Hanrahan's struggles remained after the walk-off victory.
Farrell provided the best answer he could.
"No, no move is going to be made," he said. "Joel's going through a little bit of a spell."
Farrell thought that part of that spell included some "careful" pitching Saturday. While Farrell insisted he has seen nothing mechanically wrong with Hanrahan, the closer suggested otherwise, hinting that a focused video session with pitching coach Juan Nieves might help. In the meantime, he's focusing on the basics.
"I'm not really worried about it," he said. "Just got to go out and throw strikes."
That's been the primary issue. Only four of Hanrahan's 12 offerings Saturday were strikes. Just over half of his 32 deliveries Thursday were strikes, and two of those were hit a country mile. He has recorded just two outs in 44 pitches in his past two games, and has walked 15 batters in 13 2/3 innings dating to the end of last season.
Meanwhile, some of those surrounding Hanrahan are producing effortless outings. Uehara and Andrew Bailey remain unscored upon in a combined 8 2/3 innings. For now, they are joining Farrell in throwing support behind the man the organization traded for in December.
"We'll put it together and be the best pen in the big leagues, for sure," Bailey said. "He's our guy down there."
Naturally, Bailey is a good fall-back option. He came to Boston as the team's new closer before an injury in spring training derailed his 2011 campaign, but he has plenty of closing experience and looks to finally be throwing the ball the way he did during two All-Star campaigns with the Oakland Athletics. Uehara has not allowed a run in 19 straight outings, an impressive stat that would boost his candidacy.
If a change is made, it's not as if Hanrahan goes to a factory to get an adjustment. He still has to work out the kinks in game action, and Farrell insisted he is "not going to deviate" from the initial plan.
"There are certain roles," he said.
With the continued support of his skipper and some time spent watching tape, perhaps Hanrahan will begin to embrace his.