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Some things we learned after talking to John Farrell, Red Sox assistant GM Brian O’Halloran, new closer Joel Hanrahan

12.26.12 at 5:19 pm ET
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The Red Sox held two conference calls Wednesday afternoon, one with assistant general manager Brian O’Halloran (GM Ben Cherington was traveling), and another with newly acquired closer Joel Hanrahan.

Here are some things we learned from the two media sessions (along with another phone conversation WEEI.com had with Red Sox manager John Farrell).

1. Farrell kept in contact with Andrew Bailey throughout the trade talks involving Hanrahan, as was first revealed by O’Halloran:

“I spoke with John earlier, and he has spoken with both Bailey and Hanrahan, so I don’€™t mind sharing with you that John plans to go into the spring with Hanrahan as the closer,” the assistant GM said. “He talked to Andrew. We see Andrew as playing a very important role in the back end of our bullpen as well. There will be plenty of opportunities for him to help us win games in key situations late in the game, and we know he’€™s very capable both of closing and pitching in other high-leverage situations at the ends of games. It’€™s not too often you get a chance to add a two-time All-Star closer to the mix, so we’€™re excited to do that with Joel. We think it will strengthen the group and make everybody better out there.”

And when Farrell eventually broke the news to Bailey he isn’t currently viewed as the Red Sox’ closer?

“In talking to Andrew and explaining to him what our approach was, it was by no means a reflection on him personally. But the fact we were able to add a very good closer to our bullpen it really has a chance to deepen a strong group that emerged last year. … [Bailey] was a pro about it. He understood. He has strong belief and confidence in himself, which we like. He was a pro about it. He will be in an important role for us late in the game.”

2. Evidently, the June interleague series between the Red Sox and Pirates in Pittsburgh  — in which Hanrahan picked up a pair of saves — left quite an impression on the Sox.

‘€œIt definitely made an impression on me,” said O’Halloran. “I hadn’t seen very much of him. I’€™d seen him just a little bit here and there prior to that, and that was pretty impressive. If you go back and look at the video of that, it was not fun to be in the batter’€™s box against Joel Hanrahan for our hitters. We’€™re excited to have him on our side. Obviously the track record is lengthy the last few years as a closer. But that did absolutely make a strong impression on us.

‘€œCertainly have had our eye on him since he’€™s moved to that role at the back end of the pen have been very impressed by him. Those types of guys don’€™t usually become available very often. There was nothing in the past to lead us to believe we could have acquired him. We’€™ve certainly always liked him and believed he could pitch successfully in our division.”

During that series, Hanrahan threw 27 of his 35 pitches at 97 mph or better, facing David Ortiz, Dustin Pedroia, Adrian Gonzalez and Jacoby Ellsbury.

What does Hanrahan remember about the series?

“The biggest thing was my wife’€™s family was all in town,” said the reliever, whose wife’s family is from Brockton and Avon. “They’€™ve all been diehard Red Sox fans for the longest time, and then I came into the picture. They were there that weekend, probably like 35 of them, they had their Pirates shirts with the Red Sox hats and didn’€™t really know what to do. They were confused fans. It was a big series there. The Pirates were in a good spot, I think we might have been in first or second place that time of year. The stadium was sold out over the weekend. I got that strikeout of Adrian Gonzalez to end the game, and when people look back at me as a Pirate, that’€™s the one that stands out the most to them.

“It was a fun weekend. The Red Sox came into Pittsburgh and people thought they were going to boss the Pirates around that weekend, and I think we took two out of three from them. It was just a good time. It was fun.”

3. Both Hanrahan and the Red Sox believe they have identified what caused the pitcher’s bout of wildness during September of last season.

O’Halloran: ‘€œObviously we looked at that very closely. We do think there are some reasons that we saw the uptick in walks. We’€™re going to talk to Joel, and John’€™s already started that process, and Juan Nieves and Gary Tuck and John will get together with Joel and throw out anything that they see and help him with that. It’€™s not something we’€™re concerned about long-term. We believe we’€™re going to get the guy that’€™s been a great closer for two years. We did pay close attention to that and look into that, but we felt very comfortable and confident that he’€™s going to be a really good closer for us going forward.”

Hanrahan: “I had some issues with my legs. I hurt my hamstring early on in the year, and then I had a sore ankle for a while that kind of went under wraps. I was wearing a tight ankle brace that restricted my movement, and that had something to do with it. It’€™s nothing I was concerned about. There’€™s times when you pick and choose who you want to walk when you walk someone as well. I don’€™t think the walks are going to be a concern. I feel good going to spring training, and that’€™s going to be the main thing.”

4. Hanrahan knew, with the Pirates holding just one more year of control, the likelihood was that he would be pitching for a different team in 2013.

“I knew the trade rumors were going to be blowing around this winter,” he said. “They were getting thrown around last year and throughout the year when a couple of guys got hurt. I knew the possibility was pretty likely that there was a chance I’€™d get traded. I’€™d heard the different teams, with the Red Sox, the Tigers, the Dodgers. I had heard those rumors and knew they were talking about it. When I found out the news Friday or Saturday, I just kind of felt like the Red Sox were going to be the team, I got excited, because the Red Sox have a great history and tradition. It’€™s a huge sports city in Boston. My wife’€™s family is from that area. It was nice to have some familiarity with it, get it out of the way, and focus this next six weeks on getting ready for spring training as a Red Sox.”

5. Besides Hanrahan, O’Halloran offered some other updates.

With the Stephen Drew acquisition also being announced Wednesday, the assistant GM was asked about how the Red Sox viewed the shortstop’s physical well-being. Drew had dealt with a broken ankle before coming back to play for Arizona and Oakland in 2012.

“He was one of the better everyday shortstops in baseball for quite a stretch there and then he had the really bad ankle fracture that he suffered in 2011 and it took him the full year to get back out playing which is understandable,” O’Halloran said. “It’s a really really difficult injury. But he played well down the stretch and he also helped out Oakland in their stretch drive into the playoffs after the trade. We brought him in for a physical exam and our folks were very pleased with his progress and it’s obvious to them how hard he had worked given the nature of that injury, how hard he had worked to strengthen it. We feel that he’s going to be fully healthy for us and is going to make us a better team, we’re excited to have him.”

Then there was the latest regarding Mike Napoli, who still remains in limbo after concerns popped up following his physical with the Red Sox. It has now been 23 days since the two sides agreed to a three-year, $39 million deal for the infielder. The news, however, was there was no new news.

“I can’t comment on that specifically, nothing new from what Ben said the last time he spoke with you guys,” said O’Halloran, referencing Cherington’s update on a week before when there was no new developments. “We do continue to talk to a number of free agents ongoing, as Ben alluded to previously.”

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