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Hanrahan To Participate In WBC

For Angels closer Brian Fuentes, it was family issues. For Toronto closer B.J. Ryan, it was mechanical issues. For Minnesota closer Joe Nathan, it was shoulder issues. En masse, Team USA lost a slew of relief pitchers, which is why, last night, Washington Nationals closer Joel Hanrahan received a phone call wondering if he had any, um, issues that might prevent him from accepting the chance to join the roster.

Hanrahan consulted with Manager Manny Acta and pitching coach Randy St. Claire. Both authorized Hanrahan's participation.

And as a result, Hanrahan -- beginning his first full season as Washington's closer -- will join Team USA for the upcoming World Baseball Classic, hopeful that the tournament can ready him for the ninth-inning pressure he'll be dealing with regularly come April.

"A lot of adrenaline, real good competition," Hanrahan said.

Hanrahan's commitment comes one day after that of Adam Dunn, also a Team USA replacement. When the original WBC rosters came out, Hanrahan said this morning, he felt a pang of disappointment to not receive a spot. But the recent roster shuffling -- as well as a recommendation from Nats hitting coach Rick Eckstein, a coach with the 2008 Olympic team -- helped to open the door.

Just briefly, Hanrahan had some reservations about accepting the offer. He wants to use the spring to develop his change-up. He also said that "you're still committed to the Nationals, so you want to be 100-percent for them when April 6 [opener] comes around."

Just to be sure he was making the right decision, Hanrahan called former Washington closer Chad Cordero, who participated in the 2006 WBC.

"If you're in my situation," Hanrahan asked, "would you do it?"

"Absolutely," Cordero said.

By Chico Harlan  |  March 2, 2009; 10:48 AM ET
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I'd like to have seen him continue to work on his change-up, but good luck to him. Knocking wood that everybody who is taking part stays healthy (actually, for our whole roster to say healthy).

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | March 2, 2009 10:54 AM | Report abuse

I'm probably in the minority, but I like this. I'm a fan of the WBC anyway. More importantly though, what Hanrahan has lacked as a closer is some confidence, swagger, and aggressiveness. If he can go to this event and dominate - something within the realm of possibility given his stuff - it might give him a leg up on the season. I think that's more important than his change-up.


Posted by: db423 | March 2, 2009 11:03 AM | Report abuse

I echo nf1a1: good for Joel; stay healthy.

Off-topic, from Ken Rosenthal's post today on Bowden, a clear winner for Photo Caption of the Month. Absolutely brilliant and understated, the careful use of the generic possessive pronoun.

Posted by: natinbeantown | March 2, 2009 11:05 AM | Report abuse

I think its completely irresponsible for the Nationals to allow Dunn and Hanrahan to leave camp for three weeks to go to the WBC. The place on the team for these two is not settled. This isn't David Wright or Albert Pujols going to play with their long histories with the team and positions secure. There is no way to know if Dunn is going to be able to handle first base, or how the whole Nick Johnson/outfield mix thing is going to work out with Dunn out of camp for three weeks. Hanrahan isn't exactly Trevor Hoffmann, either -- is it a lock that he's going to be the closer? As noted in the story, he has pitches to work on.

Allowing these two players -- particularly Dunn -- go play in the WBC makes me wonder how committed they are to the Nationals, and how committed the Nationals are to the fans -- particularly the season ticket holder base.

And I haven't even mentioned the injury risk. Playing at the 'high competitive level' at this point in the season could lead to disasterous results. Ask Luis Ayala.

Posted by: raymitten | March 2, 2009 11:10 AM | Report abuse

Yeah, I agree -- every time I think WBC, I think "Ayala, gone for a season with a blown-out elbow." Makes me kinda worried...

Posted by: Juan-John | March 2, 2009 11:14 AM | Report abuse

There a big pros and cons to them playing, the injury risk is very real. I don't see what the advantage could be for the team with Dunn, he would be better off working with Eckstein (if The Dude really wants to hit .275 like he told the Boz) and working on his defense in LF and 1B.

For Hanrahan I'm split, he could use some extra competitive pitching opportunities to work on the mental aspect of his game, but if he's working on a new pitch that should take precedence, unless he's ready to use it in the WBC.

I've stated before I think the timing of the WBC is bad for that comepetition and for the WBC. Much better to have it take place in January or early February so your taking away from winter leagues, not spring training.

Posted by: estuartj | March 2, 2009 11:17 AM | Report abuse

uuummmm.... what raymitten?

The place on the team for these two is not settled.

really? you think hanrahan isn't the closer already (he is)? you think there's a chance dunn won't be a starter (either LF or 1B)?

There is no way to know if Dunn is going to be able to handle first base, or how the whole Nick Johnson/outfield mix thing is going to work out with Dunn out of camp for three weeks

you say that like nobody has ever seen Dunn play 1B. they know what his capabilities are there. and whether he's getting his ABs in ST or at the WBC won't affect how the rest of the OF pans out or whether NJ is healthy for the season opener. if NJ is healthy, he's at 1B and dunn is in the OF, regardless of whether dunn plays at the WBC or in viera. and vice versa. the rest of the OF situation will work itself out whether dunn is here or there, too. his presence won't change that.

there are plenty of arguments to make against the WBC and players' participation. your comment about hanrahan's changeup is valid. but both of those guys will be in their lineup spots come opening day (bar injury) whether they play in the WBC or not. it's not like we're talking about jordan zimmermann and wily mo pena.

Posted by: sec231 | March 2, 2009 11:22 AM | Report abuse

dangit, it deleted my /quote/ and /unquote/ stuff in that post. :/

Posted by: sec231 | March 2, 2009 11:23 AM | Report abuse

I'm with 231 on this one.

Let the weeks Dunn is away settle the NJ healthy dispute. It also allows the Nats to showcase him and Josh Willingham to potential trade partners.

We know Dunn's on the squad, and how others play while he is away will let the Nats know at what position it will be at. We know Hanrahan's the closer. I hope they have fun, and help the USA win this one.

Posted by: Section138 | March 2, 2009 11:31 AM | Report abuse

I'm a lot less bothered by Dunn than by Hanrahan - Dunn's got a roster spot, and in due course they'll figure out where they're going to park his sub-par d to allow him to bat. He needs to get his timing going, and the WBC might be even better than ST for that, since it'll be more "game-like" situations.

But for that exact reason, I'm much more worried about Hanrahan - he's going to be throwing full-bore a lot earlier and likely a lot more regularly than he would have otherwise - that's a recipe for a dead arm. To me, it's not about whether or not he's the closer. He is - which means he's one of the guys (like NJ) who you need to treat carefully in ST so you have him later on. Unless the Nats have some way of interceding to make sure he's not being overworked, I think I would have been a little less supportive.

Posted by: Highway295Revisited | March 2, 2009 11:42 AM | Report abuse

I'm with 231 too. Dunn and Hanrahan are not nearly the question mark some others are. They'll still be playing baseball, getting in their pitches and at-bats but they'll free up some room for Acta to get a look-see at the others who aren't such lock-ins.

Plus, I'm hoping they come back contagious with the competitiveness.

Posted by: NatsNut | March 2, 2009 11:46 AM | Report abuse

REMINDER...Federal News Radio has a Nats program at 7pm tonight. Out of towners should be able to stream the show.

Posted by: cokedispatch | March 2, 2009 11:48 AM | Report abuse

but has Hanrahan had any arm problems at all? Injury potential is worrisome but he seems pretty solid.

Posted by: NatsNut | March 2, 2009 11:49 AM | Report abuse

NN, he hasn't, AFAIK, but Ayala was a workhorse in '05, and then blew up. Hanrahan is a converted starter, so maybe he's a bit more durable, but still, I worry about the extra workload and the early-season stress of warming up to pitch in a big WBC game, etc. All of that is a much bigger load than "We're going to work you in for two innings on Tuesday, and then 2 more on Friday," where he can work on getting his motion right, make sure his velocity is where it needs to be, etc.

I'm not saying "THIS IS TERRIBLE," but I worry about the workload on one of the key arms in the pen.

Posted by: Highway295Revisited | March 2, 2009 11:53 AM | Report abuse

I didn't say that no one had ever seen Dunn play first base -- what I said is that no one knows if he's going to be good enough to handle it day in and day out. He's never been a regular first baseman in the big leagues. Seeing him play it a few times on film or a couple of spring games isn't like seeing him play it daily for a couple of weeks. I think that's a big question as to whether Johnson will be the one traded. It isn't that we don't know if Dunn is going to be in the lineup, its how the lineup best fits together. And if the centerpiece of the lineup is not in camp for three weeks, the team is not able to make that assessment as well as if he were there.

Sorry I just disagree with you guys on this point. The team is going to look very similar to 08 without Dunn in camp. That's not good.

Posted by: raymitten | March 2, 2009 11:57 AM | Report abuse

With three closers on the team, I doubt that Hanrahan will be throwing any more in the WBC the he would if he stayed in camp. I agree with many that I am more worried about Hanrahan than Dunn simply because of the Ayala debacle from the first WBC. However, this is a great opportunity for these guys to represent their country.

Posted by: Cavalier83 | March 2, 2009 11:57 AM | Report abuse

I'd rather see Dunn working on 1B and Hanrahan working on his changeup, but you can't begrudge these guys for playing. I just wish this tournament was not during spring training. I'd rather see it broken up so that the preliminary rounds are before spring training with the final rounds during an extended all-star break. I don't anyone would miss the all-star game once every 4 years if the league's best were representing their countries. Might get more participation that way.

Posted by: sec307 | March 2, 2009 12:01 PM | Report abuse


I have a feeling that it will actually allow Josh Willingham to get some time at first, if the Nats are so inclined. He is actually far more of a question mark at first than Dunn is. As an aside, I do find it interesting that on the Nats website, Dunn's listed position is first base.

Posted by: Cavalier83 | March 2, 2009 12:02 PM | Report abuse

Dunn and Hanrahan go to WBC, perform well, and return healthy and confident. Davey Johnson is careful with his young arms in the tournament. The Dunn Abides.

NJ and Willingham get lots of innings in and perform. Marrero shows he's ready at least in an emergency callup situation and will spend the meantime grooving in HAR/SYR. The new GM acquires some bullpen depth through trade or acquisition during ST.

Hey, there's 6" of snow on the ground here in New England, and more on the way. A fellas gotta think happy thoughts.

Posted by: natinbeantown | March 2, 2009 12:02 PM | Report abuse

No problem with Dunn going. It probably helps the team to get playing time to the OFs and 1Bs. We know Dunn starts, as noted above.

I am disappointed that Hanrahan is going, both from the team and the WBC perspective. I'd like to see the WBC work, and I don't see how it helps the credibility of it to have a pitcher who just established himself in the majors and is not considered a top level closer yet on the roster. Would anyone here be shocked if Mock, Hinckley, Rivera or someone else ended up as the Nats closer by the end of the year? If his role is going to be as a set up guy, there are others who do that well. Given where he is in his career, the time to work with his pitching coach on new pitches is much more valuable to him than it would be for an established middle guy.

Posted by: jca-CrystalCity | March 2, 2009 12:07 PM | Report abuse

Some reasons why I think it IS a good idea for Hanrahan to go.
-getting to play against and with some of the best players in the game. He will get to learn how they carry themselves day to day.
-Confidence and swagger. This HAS to do wonders for his confidence, being recognized as one of the top relief pitchers in the game.
-Throwing meaningfull innings. For some reason he was throwing late in games in spring training, against scrubs, not many ML closers do this.
-Last year he had to come in throwing full bore out of the gates to earn a spot, he should be ready to go this year. He shouldn't see as many appearances, or long appeances this year as he did last year.

Posted by: NoVaNatRat | March 2, 2009 12:13 PM | Report abuse

Seeing him play it a few times on film or a couple of spring games isn't like seeing him play it daily for a couple of weeks.

ray, a couple of weeks in spring training isn't going to tell you much, if any, more about dunn at 1B than looking back at film of him playing 1B in the past. it may give you more time to work with him on fundamentals, since he only played 19 games there last year, but he'll still have time to do that when he's done.

would i rather both of them be in nats camp? sure. i'm not a fan of the WBC. but it's not doom and gloom, just a minor glitch.

i think they'll be fine making the assessment of what the best lineup is. not having him in the lineup for a couple of weeks won't make that assessment more difficult. as we both have said, he's going to be in there, it's the other guys who are question marks. so the decision of what makes the best lineup will be based on what they think of the other guys, not what they think of dunn.

Posted by: sec231 | March 2, 2009 12:16 PM | Report abuse

@ natinbeantown - that caption is great!!

It's too bad they left Barry Larkin in the picture...he's one of my faves.

Posted by: combedge | March 2, 2009 12:19 PM | Report abuse

How much of a cash incentive is there in the WBC?

Posted by: nattydread1 | March 2, 2009 12:24 PM | Report abuse

...and new post up.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | March 2, 2009 12:27 PM | Report abuse

"I'm probably in the minority, but I like this. I'm a fan of the WBC anyway."

... um,m,m,m ... not as much as you might think, db423. I think there are a lot of us baseball fans who like, appreciate and support the WBC. The loudest voice I've heard speak against it belonged to The Washington Post Sports Department, who in the person of Tracee Hamilton, avered only a few days ago that the whole event wasn't of much interest to them. Pity.

Posted by: natscanreduxit | March 2, 2009 12:33 PM | Report abuse

Has the ex-Reds Underground Railroad been dismantled?

Posted by: leetee1955 | March 2, 2009 5:04 PM | Report abuse

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