Monday, July 30, 2007

Five Minutes With Joel Hanrahan

At one time, Joel Hanrahan was a highly touted pitching prospect in The Los Angeles Dodgers Organization. The Dodgers Second Round Pick in the 2000 Entry Draft, Joel turned down a scholorship to pitch for The University of Nebraska to play professionally. And, did he ever get out to a hot start--reaching as high as 5th on The Los Angeles Top Prospect Chart. This, following a pair of No Hitters pitching for Vero Beach in 2002.

Baseball America once proclaimed Hanrahan possessed one of The Minor Leagues Best Breaking Pitches. He can reach 90 MPH consistently on his fastball, while controlling his slider and change up with effectiveness. Talent which began to fail him after consistent shoulder and leg injuries hampered his progress beginning in 2004. Although reaching AAA Las Vegas for three consecutive seasons-The Dodgers never called him up to The Major Leagues.

After spending seven seasons playing in the Los Angeles Organization, Joe Hanrahan became a Free Agent and signed with Our Washington Nationals over this past winter. Looking for redemption, a story line that has played out all season long in Washington--Hanrahan's long journey to The Big Leagues finally paid off when he was summoned from AAA Columbus for an emergency start this past Saturday against The New York Mets at Shea Stadium.

Our Number 38's first five pitched innings of Major League Baseball were pretty solid. He struck out 7 Mets and held his own by reaching the sixth with a shutout. A Zero On The Board that quickly turned over to three runs scored against--when over a course of three consecutive New York Batters--Joel saw a three run lead become tied. The final blow on a Two Run Opposite Field Home Run by Carlos Delgado.

Despite his disappointment on losing a lead--Joel Hanrahan did all right for himself in his first Major League Start. In many respects, he showed some of the talent--so many scouts originally believed could be harvested from him since 2000. Joel pitched so well, that Our 2007 Version Washington Nationals--will give him another start later this week.

With all that in mind--a few months ago--I had the opportunity to visit with Joel Hanrahan for five minutes. Never did I get the chance to use the material--he had yet to make an appearance in Washington. So, I was saving our brief chat. As it turns out, our exhange still stands up today.

Here we go:

Being a Free Agent for the first time, what drew you to Washington, DC? (SBF)

“From the moment my choices became available, one was clear. I knew this would be a good opportunity for me. In fact, just about anyone that wants a chance, came here. Why not? Here with The Nationals, you knew you would get a shot. There have been open rotation spots all season, and you have to feel pretty excited about that opportunity.”

Were you frustrated playing in The Dodgers Organization? (SBF)

“No, I wasn’t frustrated. For the first couple of years I was ONE OF THEIR GUYS. They treated me pretty well over there for a couple of years. Towards the end of my stint there, a couple of things happened. But, there is nothing I can do about it now. I am happy to be here—another chance to succeed.”

“What happened with The Dodgers that stagnated your career?

“After 2003, I got hurt a little bit (shoulder problems), never did I really get all my mechanics back together at the right time. So at times things would go good, then something would happen at the wrong time and it snowballed. Wrong timing, whether it was my form, my shoulder, another injury (groin problems). It didn’t stop basically.”

You were frustrated then, and just lost confidence? (SBF)

“No, I would not say I lost confidence, its just that everything would be going good (for a start or two) then something bad would happen at the wrong time. And, at that point there is nothing more you can do about it.”

While struggling to make the majors, who has helped you along? (SBF)

With The Dodgers, I always felt there were a few that believed in me. But, having been there for a couple of years, I had seen complete new groups of Management come through, with their own ideas—so that was frustrating for me. You have to wonder whether they know me. Whether they have any idea who I am. Or, do they want to bring in their own guys, feeling nothing worked before—why keep many. Although, I did have a couple of guys in my camp. Things just never worked out.”

What do you need to do to make The Big League Club? (SBF)

“My big thing is to just throw strikes. A couple of times I have had trouble with my control. Obviously, its something everybody is looking for a pitcher to do—throw strikes and get people out. “

The game is different when you get on that mound—its more than just talent, isn't it? (SBF)

“I was joking with (Billy) Traber the other day about just this. When we were just throwing off the mound (practice), I said--‘We just pitched a Perfect Game.’ We laughed, but its true—it’s a hole new ballgame once you start facing hitters. Each (batter) has their own nuances at the plate. And my job is fool them a lot more times than they get me. It takes more than just raw talent. You need smarts, sometimes guile, maybe even a little luck. All that combining with your fielders to be successful. Something I strive for each and every day. Something I hope to ressusitate here.”

You going to pitch in The Big Leagues this season?

"Count on it. I am counting on it. This is my chance." (Smiling Broadly)

What I found interesting from Joel Hanrahan was no open bitterness about never making it with The Dodgers. Things did not work out there for him, but he wasn't looking back. I guess when you are 25 years old, you still have that youthful exuberance that tells you that success is aways just around the corner. Something many others tend to forget and lose perspective about when bad times, and injuries, hinder their God Given abilities.

Interesting I find it that 2/3rds of the way through the 2007 season, Our Starting Pitching Rotation is still in flux, but Our Washington Nationals have survived. Now, two of the pitchers most expected to make The Big Club out of Spring Training--Tim Redding and Joel Hanrahan are finally on the scene--after both failed during February and March Tryouts. Today, pitching the way Management envisioned when first signed over the winter. Fascinating it might be to see how well both playout the remainder of 2007.


SenatorNat said...

As to SBF's earlier questions about locking up Dmitri Young for $5 m. per for 2008-9, I think that the answer is four-fold:

1. the offers from the logical teams in the AL such as the Twins or Angels were not worth losing the only big hitter in the current line-up;

2. yes, in the off-season and especially during 2008, should Nick Johnson return to form, he is more marketable with a fixed salary;

3. Young and perhaps the team are willing to attempt convert him into a reasnally proficient left or right field player, at least part time, which would add some punch to the line-up; and

4. he is a known failsafe if Johnson is not physically viable for 2008. And he has steadkily improved his defense over the course of the season, so it could actually work for the next two seasons.

As to the young revolving starting rotation: the odds are increasingly good that out of a mix of Chico; Bergmann; Lannan; and Hanrahan (note that only Chico lacks the prequisite two "n's" in his surname), two can emerge as high-quality starters for next year to add to Shawn Hill and Tim Redding. That should mean the Nationals only have to go into the free market this off-season with their eye on securing one high-quality starter, not two.

Certainly, with the likes of Bacsik, Simontacchi, and even Patterson (!) and O'Connor also at camp, perhaps, there should be a large credible group with experience yet young and strong, left and right-handers, to hone. And none of these guys are new to St. Clair or vice-versa in 2008, but rather they have worked through adversity together.

It is conceivable that the Nationals only need one top-flight home run hitter and one top-quality starter to be VASTLY BETTER in 2008. And, SBF's idea of picking up the former third baseman Engberg from the Atros is an excellent one. Even Jiminez does not look like a disposable part for 2008 - he may actually be a decent last man for the roster...

The bullpen could readily be assembled to be the best in all of MLB next year!

If the Nationals young outfielder CM down on the farm were fully one year ahead of his current stage of development, you could really be looking forward to a break-out year scenario in 2008, presuming Guzman is back to speed. The Nationals are just two really good hitters and one lights-out starter away from competing, I am convinced, with this roster, minus Fick, Langerhans, Batista, Logan. And, there is the possibility that Flores is the real deal, too...

Trust in Kasten. All Good.

Anonymous said...

Minor League Free Agents like Joel: are they under club control for their first (what is it, 6?) years of major league playing time before they can become major league free agents?


Anonymous said...


Wanted to let you know that Our Manager, Our Number 14 Manny Acta would be coming down to woodbridge tonight to see Shawn Hill pitch for the P-Nats. With OUR WASHINGTON NATIONALS out of town, it sounds like a great chance for you to come see Our Number 41 take the hill, and then perhaps sit down for one of your patented discussions with Our Manager. Hope to see you there.

Gooooooooooooooooo Nats

Screech's Best Friend said...

Mick: I am not sure of transaction rules--but this link provides a ton of information. Thanks

Jarrett said...

Way to go. The Nats may be horrible, but its good to see support for DC baseball is alive and well.

Anonymous said...

Clint is a tool