Red Sox

Hanrahan, Bailey looking to turn Red Sox bullpen into strength

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Hanrahan, Bailey looking to turn Red Sox bullpen into strength

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- In the Red Sox clubhouse Wednesday morning, Joel Hanrahan stood in front of his locker and answered questions from a group of reporters for 10 or so minutes.
Three lockers down, Andrew Bailey stood by himself, readying for the day.
A year ago, Bailey was in Hanrahan's position: newly acquired by the Sox and ready to assume the role of the club's closer.
Now, Hanrahan, obtained in a January deal with the Pittsburgh Pirates, is elbowing him out of the spot that he held only briefly.
"That's the role they gave me coming over in the trade," said Hanrahan of the ninth-inning assignment, "and I don't plan on just giving it up."
Of course, that was probably what Bailey was thinking a year ago.
Hanrahan was an All-Star with the Pirates the last two years, but his salary, pushed along by salary arbitration, was deemed too expensive for a club still trying to reach contender status.
In 2011, Hanrahan was among the game's most dominant closers, notching 40 saves while posting a WHIP of 1.049. Last year, he had 36 saves, but his ERA was almost a run higher (1.83 to 2.72) and he had difficulty with his command.
Hanrahan averaged a strikeout per inning, but also more than doubled his walk total from the year before, despite pitching fewer innings.
"It was a combination of a lot of things," he said. "A little bit mechanics. I rolled my ankle throughout the year. I had a hamstring injury early. Any time you (have an issue) with your legs, that's what you work on all off-season and if you lose that...
"I had an ankle brace that restricted my mechanics and I wasn't pitching as often. Then, sometimes, too, you pick and choose the guys that you want to face. When you have a three-run lead, you can kind of work around it a little bit. It's not something I'm worried about, that's for sure."
Hanrahan is heartened by the supporting cast he'll join in the bullpen. In addition to Bailey, there's Junichi Tazawa, Koji Uehara, Daniel Bard, Alfredo Aceves, Craig Breslow, Franklin Morales and Andrew Miller.
"I don't think anybody can have too many of anything," he said of the embrassment of riches. "That can shorten a ballgame for you and that's what we're looking to do.
"I think everbody down there throws 94 (mph) plus. I'm not too familiar with everyone here, but I know there's some good arms, guys with good (track records). I'm looking forward to working with these guys and hopefully we can turn the bullpen into one of our strengths."
One of those supporting cast members is Bailey, who missed the first four and a half months of last season following a freak thumb injury, then faltered in the final six weeks of the season, leading the Sox to re-assess his role.
"That's never easy," said Hanrahan of Bailey's demotion. "That was the situation when I got traded over here. I wasn't sure what was going to be happening. He's a great guy. I think he's got a lot to prove this year himself and he's looking forward to going out and competing."
For his part, Bailey has been gracious and accepting of the change.
"Ben (Cherington) had given me a little heads up (before the trade)," recalled Bailey, "and I said, 'Whatever makes us better...' I only get to play this game for a certain amount of time and I want to win. The accolades are great in the role of the closer, but ultimately, I think everyone here wants to win. That's the goal."
It's quite possible that given the glut of relievers and Bailey's past success in the role, he could be traded before the season, or perhaps during the year if a need arises.
Bailey, though, is hoping to stay, even if it's in a lesser role.
"I love it here," said Bailey. "The team we have is a winner, contender. We do have a deep bullpen. Starters only have to go four or five innings. Obviously, everyone's goal as a reliever is to close and I've said before, I don't think my closing days are done and I certainly hope they're not done in Boston. I love the city. I love being here. It's close to home for me."
When a reporter asked how he would approach going from pitching the ninth to the eighth, he answered: "I don't know -- got any advice?"
Turning more serious, Bailey added: "For me it doesn't change. I still have to throw up zeroes, whether's it's the eighth, ninth, seventh, whatever it is. I still have to do my job. Whatever inning it is, I still have to get the ball to Joel.
"For me, it's still going out and doing my job. I'm still going about the same routine I always have. I just get to walk out there an inning earlier."
And, as Bailey knows from experience, things can change.

Why the Red Sox should sign not one but two relievers

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Why the Red Sox should sign not one but two relievers

BOSTON — There is a world outside of Giancarlo Stanton. 

Stanton, at this point, simply doesn’t appear likely to end up in Boston. That should feel obvious to those following along, and so should this: it can change. 

But there are other pursuits. Besides their search for a bat or two, the Red Sox have been actively pursuing left-handed relief options. Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski is a fast mover, but this year’s market has not been.

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Robbie Ross Jr. and Fernando Abad are both free agents, leaving Robby Scott as the lone incumbent southpaw from last season's primary group. Brian Johnson is bound for the pen, with Roenis Elias as a depth option too.  Still, even if Johnson’s transition pans out, the Sox still have an opening for a late-inning reliever with the departure of free agent Addison Reed. 

Reed is a righty, but between Matt Barnes, Joe Kelly, Heath Hembree, Carson Smith, and Craig Kimbrel, the Sox have more right-handed choices than left. Coming back from surgery, Tyler Thornburg, should be in the mix eventually too, but it's difficult to expect too much from him.

What the Red Sox should do: sign one of each for the bullpen, one righty, and one lefty. And then trade a righty or two. Turn some of that mishmash into an addition elsewhere. Be creative. 

Because inevitably, come midseason, the Sox will want to add another bullpen arm if they sign just one now. Why wait until you have to give up prospect capital when you can just add the piece you want now?

Go get a near-sure thing such as Pat Neshek, a veteran who walks no one and still strikeouts a bunch. At 37 with an outgoing personality, Neshek also brings leadership to a team that is looking for some. He walked just six guys in 62 innings last season. Entering his 12th season in the majors, he’s looking for his first ring.

All these top of the market relievers may be handsomely paid. But relievers are still something of a bargain compared to position players and starting pitchers. One of the key words for this winter should be creativity. If there’s value to be had in the reliever market, capitalize on it. 

Comeback kid Mike Minor, Jake McGee and Tony Watson headline the crop of free agent lefties available. Brad Hand of the Padres could also be had by trade but his market isn’t moving too quickly (and he won’t come cheaply).

Minor, 29, who posted a 2.55 ERA in 2017 after health issues kept him out of the majors in 2015-16, is expected to be paid handsomely. He is also open to the idea of potentially starting if a team is interested in him doing so. The Royals reportedly could give him that shot.

McGee’s American League East experience could be appealing.

He's 31 and had a 3.61 ERA with the Rockies in 2017 and has a 3.15 ERA lifetime. He’s not quite the strikeout pitcher he was earlier in his career — he had an 11.6 K/9 in 2015 — but a 9.1 K/9 is still very strong, particularly when coupled with just 0.6 homers allowed per nine.

For what it’s worth: McGee has also dominated the Red Sox, who have a .125 average, .190 on-base percentage and .192 slugging against him in 117 regular-season plate appearances. 

McGee throws a mid-90s fastball with a low-80s slider. He can operate up in the zone, and he actually has been even more effective against righties than lefties in his career, including in 2017. McGee’s been a closer, too, with 44 career saves.

The Sox had the second-best bullpen in the majors by ERA in 2017, at 3.07. Yet, come the postseason, there wasn’t a sense of great confidence or even a clear shape to the pecking order behind one of the absolute best relievers in the game, Kimbrel. 

HOFer Joe Morgan's letter urges voters to keep steroid users out of Hall

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HOFer Joe Morgan's letter urges voters to keep steroid users out of Hall

Hall of Fame second baseman Joe Morgan is urging voters to keep “known steroid users” out of Cooperstown.

A day after the Hall revealed its 33-man ballot for the 2018 class, the 74-year-old Morgan argued against the inclusion of players implicated during baseball’s steroid era in a letter to voters with the Baseball Writers’ Association of America. The letter from the vice chairman of the Hall’s board of directors was sent Tuesday using a Hall email address.

Read the full text of Morgan's letter here. 

“Steroid users don’t belong here,” Morgan wrote. “What they did shouldn’t be accepted. Times shouldn’t change for the worse.”

Hall voters have been wrestling with the issue of performance-enhancing drugs for several years. Baseball held a survey drug test in 2003 and the sport began testing for banned steroids the following year with penalties. Accusations connected to some of the candidates for the Hall vary in strength from allegations with no evidence to positive tests that caused suspensions.

About 430 ballots are being sent to voters, who must have been members of the BBWAA for 10 consecutive years, and a player needs at least 75 percent for election. Ballots are due by Dec. 31 and results will be announced Jan. 24.

Writers who had not been covering the game for more than a decade were eliminated from the rolls in 2015, creating a younger electorate that has shown more willingness to vote for players tainted by accusations of steroid use. Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens each received a majority of votes for the first time in 2017 in their fifth year on the ballot.

Morgan said he isn’t speaking for every Hall of Famer, but many of them feel the same way that he does.

“Players who failed drug tests, admitted using steroids, or were identified as users in Major League Baseball’s investigation into steroid abuse, known as the Mitchell Report, should not get in,” Morgan wrote. “Those are the three criteria that many of the players and I think are right.”

Jeff Bagwell, Tim Raines and Ivan Rodriguez were inducted into the Hall of Fame in July. They were joined by former Commissioner Bud Selig and retired Kansas City and Atlanta executive John Schuerholz, who were voted in by a veterans committee.

Some baseball writers said the election of Selig, who presided over the steroids era, influenced their view of whether tainted stars should gain entry to the Hall.

Morgan praised BBWAA voters and acknowledged they are facing a “tricky issue,” but he also warned some Hall of Famers might not make the trip to Cooperstown if steroid users are elected.

“The cheating that tainted an era now risks tainting the Hall of Fame too,” he wrote. “The Hall of Fame means too much to us to ever see that happen. If steroid users get in, it will divide and diminish the Hall, something we couldn’t bear.”

© 2017 by The Associated Press