FORT MYERS, Fla. — Joel Hanrahan had a message early Thursday morning.
“Can’t talk today. I don’t talk the day of my starts,” he deadpanned.
For the reliever, the mandate wasn’t serious, but simply a chance for him to take advantage of what has become a rarity in his career — starting a baseball game.
Hanrahan got the start in the Red Sox ‘ spring training opener, going up against Northeastern for one inning. It would be his first start since Sept. 23, 2007, when he 4 2/3 innings against the Phillies for the Nationals. In all, the 31-year-old started 11 games in his major league career, going 4-3 with a 6.02 ERA, totaling 49 1/3 innings.
But then, in 2008 spring training, the role had changed.
“It wasn’t anything anybody told me. It was one of those things were you sit and watch, knew we had four starters and got another one that spring. I knew I wasn’t very good at starting. I was the 100-pitch, five-inning guy. Couple of walks, couple of strikeouts. I wasn’t very good.
“Obviously, everybody thinks you can [start]. I think if I would have felt like I had a chance to start the next year and prepare as a starter I would have a chance to be better. At that point I was 26 and had seven years in the minor leagues. I was doing whatever I could to stay in the big leagues. If it required being the bullpen catcher I would have done that. I was just doing whatever I could to stay. I didn’t think I had a chance to make the team in 2008, either.”
By the time the ’08 spring training was wrapping up, however, Hanrahan had found his new role
“I had a game against Atlanta in spring training. I think I pitched three innings and had seven or eight strikeouts against their ‘A’ squad. [Then-Washington general manager Jim Bowden] came in after that and said, ‘Hell of a job. Congratulations. I think you made the team and you’re going to be a hell of a closer one day,'” he said.
“There’s positives to both sides of it. I’ve gotten to the point where I come to the park knowing I have a chance to make an impact in the game. Some days you could use that breather, but I like the role that I am.”