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Pirates notebook: Hanrahan: Grilli will 'be fine' as closer

| Wednesday, March 6, 2013, 5:33 p.m.
Christopher Horner
Boston pitcher Joel Hanrahan throws during a workout before a game against the Pirates on Wednesday, March 6, 2013, at jetBlue Park in Fort Myers, Fla. (Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review)

FORT MYERS, Fla. — Count Joel Hanrahan among those confident that the Pirates' bullpen will manage without him.

Including Jason Grilli, his successor at closer.

“Yeah, definitely,” Hanrahan said Wednesday at JetBlue Park before the Pirates beat his new employer, the Boston Red Sox, 9-3. “Jason's at the same point in his career as I was in 2010. I was always that guy facing the heart of the order. I had a lot of strikeouts. He did the same thing last year. He's an older guy, but he knows how to pitch. I think he'll be fine.”

Grilli is 36, Hanrahan 31. But there's no question Grilli is more prone to bringing out his inner child on the mound.

“Oh, he definitely leaves it out there,” Hanrahan said. “But that's good for him. That's who he is. He has a lot of fun. I'm going to enjoy tuning in on TV to see him do those fist-pumps, and I think people in Pittsburgh will, too.”

Hanrahan, meanwhile, is getting a fresh start on more than one level. His wife, Kim — who grew up a Red Sox fan in Massachusetts — is expecting the couple's first child, a boy, this weekend.

And then there's the small matter of becoming the closer for one of the most visible franchises in sports, of going toe-to-toe with the Yankees and Mariano Rivera.

“It's a different feeling,” Hanrahan said. “Getting the chance to play in Fenway is pretty amazing. Just really, everything that they do here … they've got Tim Wakefield, Jason Varitek, Pedro Martinez in camp. … It's a lot like having Maz and Teke around.”

Bill Mazeroski and Kent Tekulve, of course.

“They really do a good job here,” Hanrahan said. “It's been a lot of fun so far.”

Not many pitchers describe the mighty American League East Division as fun, but Hanrahan, a two-time All-Star in Pittsburgh, hardly sounds as if he'll back off the challenge.

“A lot of people have been asking how I'll deal with coming from the NL Central to the AL East, or from Pittsburgh to Boston. Really, that ninth inning is the same no matter where you are. I tell people that in 2011 we had the Red Sox come into a packed house at PNC Park, and we took two out of three. It's not like it's something I haven't experienced before. Maybe one of those Sunday night Yankees-Red Sox games that takes five hours … that'll be different.”

Not locked in

Jeff Locke started Wednesday and put up a better line — one run and three hits over four innings — than the visible result of a lot of hard contact by Boston hitters. Still, he found it more encouraging than his previous start, also against the Red Sox, when he was charged with three runs in as many innings.

“I was able to throw more strikes, keep the ball down better,” Locke said. “There were some pretty well-stroked balls, but that's part of baseball. For me, it felt like a step in the right direction.”

Locke is considered a candidate for the fifth spot in the rotation.

“Jeff worked behind in the count, and it caught up to him,” manager Clint Hurdle said.

Cutdown coming

The Pirates, still clinging to all 62 players in camp, should have their first cutdown soon, Hurdle said. The first wave rarely comes with major surprises.

Dejan Kovacevic is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at dkovacevic@tribweb.com or via Twitter @Dejan_Kovacevic.

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