When the Pittsburgh Pirates dealt their closer to the Boston Red Sox back in December I thought the front office had gone mad. Joel Hanrahan had 72 saves the last two seasons and averaged a strikeout per inning. I thought that it was just another example of the Pirates being cheap and the only reason they traded him away was because he was arbitration eligible. Well I may have been wrong, maybe they knew that the closer’s role was in safe hands with Jason Grilli.
I admit that I was worried about handing over the closer’s job to a 36 year old who has only five career saves, but Grilli’s performance this spring has me rethinking things. He struggled a bit in his one appearance with Team Italy in the World Baseball Classic, but he hung tough and didn’t allow a run. In his four games with the Pirates he has allowed just three hits and one walk while striking out four.
Of course the real test will be when the regular season comes around and the pressure ramps up a bit. If he responds like he did in the WBC, I like his chances for success.
Now the Pirates just need to use the money they saved by trading Hanrahan to address needs as they arise during the season. Hopefully management won’t shy away from a trade because a player’s salary is too high. If the Pirates play this right they have a decent shot at making the playoffs in 2013. If they continue to be the Pirates of old then the streak will surely hit 21.