TORONTO -- There will indeed be a role reversal in the Red Sox bullpen for the foreseeable future. Joel Hanrahan, who began the season as the Sox closer, came off the 15-day disabled list and was told by manager John Farrell Tuesday afternoon that he will be setting up for Andrew Bailey. Farrell also met with Bailey and delivered the same message.
“It’s definitely not a surprise,’’ Hanrahan said. “There’s not a whole lot of guys who get hurt, miss a couple of weeks and get thrown back in that role. Whatever happens is going to happen.’’
Grist for controversy? Hanrahan would not go down that road. Instead, he said, he was taking his cue from the way Bailey acted when the Sox traded for Hanrahan last December and announced that there would be no competition in spring training for the closer’s job: Hanrahan was the closer, Bailey the setup man.
Bailey publicly accepted that outcome, and after Tuesday’s switch, Hanrahan did the same.
“I just want to be one of the 25 guys helping us to win,’’ Hanrahan said. “The way we’re playing right now, I’m not trying to stir any controversy. There could have been some of that in December. The way Andrew handled that at that time, that’s kind of the approach I want to take and go out there and do my part.’’
Hanrahan said he accepted Farrell’s explanation for the switch.
“Obviously I’ve been out of the game for 15 days, and [Farrell] says he’s going to kind of work me back in,’’ Hanrahan said. “Bailey’s been doing a heck of a job. I told him that I’m comfortable with whatever you want to do. The way the team’s playing right now, I just want to fit in and do my part to help. I’m just excited to be back.’’
Asked if Farrell told him the role reversal was temporary, Hanrahan said: “We didn’t get that far down the road. Obviously we’re just trying to work back in and see where it plays out. Whatever their decision is, is going to be their decision, and I’m just trying to help out.’’
Hanrahan saved a total of 76 games in the last two seasons for the Pittsburgh Pirates and as a player in his last year of salary arbitration, he signed a one-year deal for $7.04 million with the Red Sox, with the chance to earn an additional $60,000 in performance bonuses based on games finished.
Losing the closer’s role could potentially hurt Hanrahan’s earning power significantly this winter, when he is eligible for free agency, but he insisted Tuesday that was secondary.
“That’s something that will play itself out by the end of the year,’’ he said. “If I go out and get people out in the eighth inning, I feel like I’ve got a good enough track record somebody will look at that and say, ‘You know what? He had an injury, something happened, he came back throwing the ball well, and that’s all that really matters.’
“If I throw the ball really well, that situation will play itself out. That’s stuff I can’t worry about now. My goal right now is to get us some hardware.’’
Hanrahan hasn’t pitched since April 13, when he was lifted after walking the only two batters he faced against Tampa Bay. In his previous outing, a loss against the Orioles, he walked two and gave up two home runs. Hanrahan revealed he had been pitching with a strained hamstring in his right, or pushoff, leg, an injury that occurred in his second outing of the season against the Yankees on April 3, when he registered the first of three consecutive saves.
But after the Rays game, the decision was made to place him on the DL, the injury having an obvious impact on his mechanics, according to Farrell. Hanrahan returns after making two rehab appearances for Pawtucket this weekend, and says that he’s healthy.
“I feel good,’’ he said. “I feel ready to go. I made a couple of rehab appearances, didn’t feel anything in the second game, and I didn’t think about it. Hopefully it will be a nonissue and I’ll be ready to get back and help.’’
Hanrahan said he has no doubt the injury contributed to his ineffectiveness.
“I definitely think the hammy affected that,’’ he said. “When you talk about your back leg, you put a lot of weight on that back leg to start your delivery, and then you’re pushing off with that leg. It didn’t affect my velocity, but it did affect the way I finished pitches and how I went through my delivery. I feel good with it now. I’m just ready to go.’’
Pitching the eighth instead of the ninth will not require a major adjustment on his part, he said.
“My job is to go out there and put up a zero,’’ he said. “It doesn’t matter what inning it is, your job is to go out there and get three people out and throw up a zero. You can see how it started out the year with Bailey. He was a closer a long time, took that eighth inning role and was doing really well, and he’s continued that with the ninth.’’
Bailey has a win, five saves, a 1.46 ERA and 20 strikeouts in 12 1/3 innings. Only four relievers have more strikeouts in the majors this season.
“I knew what my job going into the season would be,’’ he said, “[but] things change, man, a lot of times. Whether it’s an injury or whatever, sometimes those roles change.
“I’ve got a lot of confidence pitching in that [closer’s] role, I’ve done it before, so for me, the preparation, nothing changes. As a unit down there, we’re great. We’ve got 25 guys on the same page. Ultimately that’s what you want.
“Having [Hanrahan] back and healthy, the way Koji [Uehara] and Taz [Junichi Tazawa] are pitching, to add another guy who throws 100 is not a bad thing. Just keep focused, keep doing what we’re doing, all on the same page.’’
Bailey said Farrell did not indicate to him how long this arrangement would last.
“I’m accustomed to that role and I know what it takes to get the job done,’’ he said. “For me I’m comfortable out there. Obviously, everybody wants to close. It’s not really a big deal. I’ve done it before and hopefully I’ll get the chance tonight.’’