Will Joel Hanrahan’s Return Bring Controversy to Boston Red Sox?

By JM Catellier
Joel Hanrahan Boston Red Sox
Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

The Boston Red Sox will do a monumental job of dismissing the idea altogether in the next few days, but a closer controversy is brewing in Beantown nevertheless.

On Tuesday, the Red Sox will activate reliever Joel Hanrahan from the 15-day DL. Hanrahan, coming back from a hamstring injury, will take Daniel Bard’s spot on the 25-man roster. Bard was sent back to Double-A following Sunday’s game.

Replacing the inconsistent Bard with Hanrahan, who deals baseballs to his catcher to the tune of 96 miles per hour, will be a huge boost to the bullpen. But Boston fans can’t help but see the start of a brewing controversy, even if Red Sox management won’t acknowledge it.

In Hanrahan’s absence, interim closer Andrew Bailey has been fantastic. The 28-year-old right-hander is 1-0 in 2013, with five saves in six chances (his win was a result of his only blown save). Bailey has allowed just 6 hits in 12 1/3 innings to date, showing off a ridiculous WHIP of 0.811 to go along with his 1.46 ERA. He’s done just about everything right while Hanrahan’s been on the DL.

Manager John Farrell has already indicated that, at least for now, Bailey is likely to remain as the team’s closer. I think it’s the right move. But allowing a player to lose his job due to injury is treading dangerous waters to say the least.

If Bailey runs the table for the remainder of 2013, performing perfectly in save situations, then this is a huge non-issue. But the odds suggest that that’s not likely to happen. So the question becomes at what point does Hanrahan—who’s making $7 million dollars this season—get another shot at the closer’s role?

How long is Bailey’s leash? What if Bailey struggles in back-to-back games? What happens if Hanrahan is lights-out moving forward? Whether they like it or not, the Red Sox have created a controversy by allowing Bailey to retain the closing job.

For Hanrahan’s part, he hasn’t responded publicly to the situation yet, though Farrell has indicated that Hanrahan “understands what’s going on here”.

Though it may remain dormant for a while (so long as the Red Sox are winning), the debate will be sure to surface at some point in the not so distant future. All Red Sox fans can hope for right now though, is that Bailey ignores the urge to look over his shoulder and continues to throw the ball with confidence. Fingers crossed…

(JM Catellier is the author of the book Fixing Baseball, a guide to restructuring the Hall of Fame. Follow him on Twitter: @FixingBaseball and Facebook, and check out his site: www.fixingbaseball.com)


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