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Hanrahan learns how to close

Sep 4, 2010, 11:00 AM EST

Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
Joel Hanrahan blew away Ryan Zimmerman to earn his third save for the Pirates.

PITTSBURGH — There was a time when the last thing Joel Hanrahan wanted was to be handed the ball for the ninth inning with his team leading by three or fewer runs. May 2009, for example, comes to mind.

When the Nationals sent Hanrahan to the Pirates as part of the four-player trade that also included Nyjer Morgan, Sean Burnett and Lastings Milledge, there were plenty of people around the Nats organization who figured the big right-hander would never be successful as a big-league closer.

As good as Hanrahan's stuff was, he didn't seem to have the mental capacity to pitch the ninth inning of a tight ballgame. Five blown saves in 10 opportunities and a 7.71 ERA tend to raise some red flags.

In Pittsburgh, though, Hanrahan has rediscovered himself. And in blowing away the Nats during the ninth inning last night to preserve an 8-5 victory, he showed his former team why he's being viewed around these parts as a viable closer once again.Read more »

  1. Big Cat - Sep 4, 2010 at 11:33 AM

    I still don't think he can mentally handle being a big league closer. Time will tell. But I'll tell ya one thing, I sure would like to have that 98mph back in our bullpen. Wonder if the Bucs will swap him back to us for Nyjer. Heck, we could even throw in Maxwell to sweeten the pot

  2. Doc - Sep 4, 2010 at 12:20 PM

    @ Big Cat: We might as well throw in Mock, Bergman, Atilano, and a few more etcs. I knew that being a closer had a certain mentality to it, but I didn't realize it was such a big emotional/mental leap for some pitchers. It also sounds like the mental part is not always the easiest thing for a pitching coach to mentor. With Joe Kerrigan, Hanrahan has one of the best. Randy St. Clair tried his best with Hanrahan too, and he still ranks high in my estimation of quality coaches.Doesn't sound like Hanrahan is quite there yet, and maybe never will be. But the heater is certainly impressive.Us fans like to keep track of the ex-Nats. Nice article Mark.

  3. JaneB - Sep 4, 2010 at 1:27 PM

    Im one of the fans who even ROOTS for certain ex-Nats when I see them play. Jon Rauch being one of them. And I will probably root for Nyjer, whenever he lands somewhere else, as seems inevitable. Interesting that we couldn't help Hanrahan to where he is now, and the Pirates gave up on Capps. Maybe there is something to the idea of clean slate that helps players turn a corner. Thanks for this update!

  4. Anonymous - Sep 4, 2010 at 2:21 PM

    Hanrahan gave one of the great quotes of all time when he said as a Nat "I get good results when I throw strikes". He can be good, at least, if he ever gets control over his 98 mph heat. Of course, there are hundreds of guys through the years that have said that, too.

  5. BinM - Sep 4, 2010 at 5:33 PM

    I'm as happy as any that 'Gas-Can' has found a role with the Pirates, but he is still another $1M arm with a two-bit head, imo. He turns 30 in the off-season, and that 98mph two-seamer is bound to lose some steam at some point in the near future. I'd still take the trade of Milledge-Hanrahan for Morgan-Burnett, & call it a wash at worst. Two 'knuckleheads' off the roster, while getting one 'knucklehead' (Morgan), and a solid LHRP in return. Still a good trade, imo.

  6. Sec3MySofa - Sep 4, 2010 at 6:11 PM

    The Cubs will probably be looking to dump some salary. Maybe the Nats could get Marlon Byrd back? Just a thought. I always liked that guy.I'm assuming "We stand behind Nyjer" means "by dinnertime Oct. 3 he is SO out of here."

  7. rogieshan - Sep 4, 2010 at 6:33 PM

    Doc said: "With [pitching coach] Joe Kerrigan, Hanrahan has one of the best."Kerrigan was fired last month. Ray Searage is the pitching coach now.

  8. Doc - Sep 4, 2010 at 7:19 PM

    @ rogieshan: My bad! But still think that Kerrigan is a good pitching coach. Thanks for keeping me up to date.

  9. Souldrummer - Sep 4, 2010 at 8:08 PM

    To me, Hanrahan is a Bowden casualty. He was a prospect almost as valuable as Storen given his stuff. Last year, we threw him into a closer role and he had less time in big league camp and less innings over the spring since we was on the World Baseball Classic USA roster. I tend to think Rizzo, who likes to protect his prospects a bit more, would have found a better stopgap closer like he did with Matt Capps this year to help protect Hanrahan and that may have helped him ease into a closer role.In the long run, I think Hanrahan is going to be better than Burnett. Morgan for Milledge is starting to look like a wash. Not a bad deal given where we were and our need to clean house after Bowden, but we shouldn't be married to Morgan either and we should still root for Hanrahan as he thrives in greener Bowden-less pastures.





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