BOSTON -- This is not the kind of trouble you anticipate with two All-Star closers on your roster. But with Andrew Bailey going on the disabled list Monday afternoon with a strained right biceps and hours later Joel Hanrahan coming out of the ninth inning with what manager John Farrell called a right forearm strain, the Red Sox bullpen needs help, and fast.
Otherwise, you wouldn’t see Ryan Dempster, who is scheduled to pitch on Tuesday, beginning to throw in the 11th inning Monday night, although Dempster was spared by some yeoman work by Clayton Mortensen and three two-out hits in the bottom of the 11th, the last a game-winning double by Stephen Drew, his fourth hit of the night, in Boston’s 6-5 win over the Minnesota Twins.
Hanrahan left the game after blowing his second save in six opportunities, giving up a long home run to Brian Dozier, the first of the season for the Twins second baseman and the fourth allowed in nine appearances (7 1/3 innings) by Hanrahan. Projected to be the backbone of a bullpen in which Bailey had first been hurt, and then a disappointment last season, and which also was missing Daniel Bard, a major reclamation project with an uncertain future, Hanrahan has instead evoked flashbacks of Eric Gagne and Bobby Jenks, two high-profile closers who flamed out in their time in Boston.
Hanrahan’s early troubles were blamed primarily on a hamstring strain that occurred in his second appearance of the season, April 3 in New York, eventually sent him to the disabled list and caused him to miss 15 games. He came back last Tuesday to a new arrangement, one in which he was designated to serve in a setup role to Bailey, who had flourished in Hanrahan’s absence.
But Bailey hasn’t pitched in eight days because of tightness in his biceps, and when an MRI on Monday confirmed he had inflammation in the muscle, he was placed on the DL. Hanrahan converted his only save opportunity in Bailey’s absence, pitching a scoreless ninth in Boston’s 3-1 win over Toronto last Thursday.
Now Bailey is not eligible to pitch until May 14 at the earliest. And Hanrahan is scheduled for an MRI on Tuesday, one that could send him back to the DL, for a condition he said is unlike anything he has experienced before.
“In 2010, I had a little bit [of discomfort] right on the bone of the elbow,’’ he said. “I think I missed a week at the start of the season that year, but then everything was fine. This is the first time it felt like this.’’
Hanrahan missed 10 games in September 2009, with what the Washington Nationals, his team at the time, called elbow soreness, then missed another seven games at the start of the 2010 season, when he was placed on the DL (backdated to spring training) with what was called a strained flexor muscle in the forearm.
Any diagnosis of a strained forearm sends up red flags for a pitcher. Bailey, for example, missed the first 52 games of the 2011 season with a strained forearm.
Hanrahan, of course, hopes this won’t be serious, but will await the results of Tuesday’s MRI. He said he felt great warming up in the bullpen, but first felt discomfort during the at-bat with Dozier, the second batter he faced in the ninth with the Sox leading, 5-4.
“I think I can kind of pinpoint it to the pitch after the one that went to the backstop,’’ said Hanrahan, whose 1-and-1 delivery to Dozier, a 95 mph fastball, skipped past catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia. “I threw the pitch and felt a little pull. My forearm went with the ball.
“I felt like I could still throw the ball all right, throw the ball and stretch it out a little bit, see what happens.’’
What happened was Dozier hit the sixth pitch of the at-bat, all fastballs, over the wall in left-center field to tie the score. Hanrahan struck out Joe Mauer for the second out of the inning, but walked Eduardo Escobar. He threw over to first, delivered ball one to Justin Morneau, then summoned the trainer from the dugout.
“The pickoff at first, the ball barely got there,’’ he said. “I threw one more. I couldn’t take it anymore.’’
Hanrahan has appeared in nine games with the Red Sox, and his line is ugly: an 0-1 record, 9.82 ERA, 10 hits (including 4 home runs) and 6 walks in 7 1/3 innings.
Mortensen, who was pitching for the third time in four games and the day after taking the loss in the bottom of the ninth Sunday in Texas, set aside his fatigue and kept the Sox in the game, his best work coming in the 10th, when he issued back-to-back walks with one out but got out of it on an infield fly and a nice play by first baseman Mike Napoli on a smash down the line by Ryan Doumit.
Farrell already had used Alex Wilson for 1 1/3 innings and two lefties, Andrew Miller and Craig Breslow, who was making his first appearance of the season, and was trying to stay away from Koji Uehara and Junichi Tazawa, both of whom had worked in three of the previous four games.
But with Bailey on the shelf and Hanrahan quite possibly needing to join him, the Sox are expected to summon help from Pawtucket. Alfredo Aceves, who was sent down to Pawtucket because of his uneven work, threw six scoreless innings in a start on May 2 and would appear to be a logical candidate for a recall.
Who will close in the absence of the two All-Stars? Uehara has closed in the past (13 saves for the Orioles in 2010, 32 for the Yomuiri Giants in 2007) and Tazawa also would figure to warrant consideration.
“That’s what we’re going to do and try to figure out right now,’’ Farrell said. “We’ve got a couple of guys that we’re confident can close out games.’’