Hanrahan: Ready for a new challenge
Nats reliever thrilled to have opportunity to close games
Last week, our manager, Manny Acta, announced I was going to be the closer for now. It's a position that I want to be in. Unfortunately, since the decision was made, we just haven't had any save opportunities. It's been seven days, and I'm a little anxious.
I have pitched the final innings of some games, but I haven't felt the pressure of a save situation yet.
Just a short time ago, I was a starter. Since going to the bullpen, I've seen all aspects of being a reliever, except for closer. I've worked my way toward the back end. It's exciting to be where I am now. I'm looking forward to this opportunity.
This is really the first year I have worked in relief. Throughout my Minor League career, I was almost exclusively a starter. Last year, my first year in the big leagues, I started 11 of the 12 games I pitched in.
When I was starting, I threw a 90-95 mph fastball, a slider and a changeup. As a reliever, I've only used two pitches. I've stuck with my fastball and my slider. I still work on my changeup, but it hasn't been as sharp since going to the bullpen. So I really rely on mainly a fastball-slider combination.
I've always thrown the ball with good velocity, but it seems like my fastball has gained a few miles per hour since I moved to the bullpen. That's been helpful. A couple miles per hour can help you get out of trouble once in a while.
Another adjustment going to the bullpen is not knowing when I'm going to pitch but still knowing I'm going to pitch. As a starter, you have your routine. You know what you do and when you do it in each of the four days you're not pitching, including going over scouting reports.
As a reliever, you have to be ready every day. That's what I like. I can have an impact on every game. I think it is boring sitting around and waiting for your next start.
This past weekend, we were in Los Angeles, where Chad Cordero, our regular closer, is rehabbing from surgery. I went down to his house, we had dinner and I had the chance to talk to him about the role, and he gave me a few words of wisdom. He said to treat closing like it is just another relief appearance. He said I needed to have a short memory and just go from there.
One thing I know is that I like being a reliever. I see myself as a reliever for the rest of my career.
Joel Hanrahan, a 27-year-old right-hander who is originally from Des Moines, Iowa, has a 5-3 record, a 3.88 ERA and 67 strikeouts in 60 1/3 innings for the Nationals this year. Manager Manny Acta named him the team's new closer on July 22.
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.