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Hanrahan keeps firing in Pirates' 11-5 win

| Wednesday, March 14, 2012

SARASOTA, Fla. • Closer Joel Hanrahan continued to show All-Star form already, reaching 98 mph on the gun as he struck out two in a scoreless fifth inning today, part of the Pirates' 11-5 rout of the Baltimore Orioles at Ed Smith Stadium.

In three innings this spring, he has fanned six without allowing a hit. His only blemish was a leadoff walk today, but even that could be blamed on what Hanrahan called "a pretty big hole on the mound right where I step."

Is it June yet?

"I feel good about the strike zone right now," Hanrahan said. "I'm just trying to throw my pitches where I want."

A year ago, he was dueling with Evan Meek for the closer's job. This time, he's assured of it.

"I'm working on some things, working on getting my breaking pitches over. I'm just trying to get through this healthy and get some people out."

James McDonald allowed five runs and six hits in three innings, including home runs by J.J. Hardy and Mark Reynolds. His ERA through three starts is 9.00, largely because he's falling short of his goal of better fastball command.

"That's where it has to start for me," McDonald said. "Everything else works if I have that."

Garrett Jones, now at .313, went 2 for 2 with a walk, including an impressive RBI double off a sinker down and in. When Jones is on, his swing is compact enough that he can stay inside those.

"The swing is good right now," he said.

Josh Harrison's two-run triple in the seventh • a gapper to right-center • and a later single made him 6 for 10 this spring, strengthening his bid for a bench spot. Management is prioritizing offense in the bench decisions.

The Pirates (4-7) will face the Minnesota Twins on Thursday in Fort Myers, Fla.

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