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More On Hanrahan, MacDougal (And Other Notes)

Joel Hanrahan has faced plenty of pressurized situations this year. The problem is, his effectiveness depends on avoiding them. The Washington Nationals, convinced of as much, today removed their on-again, off-again closer from the ninth-inning role -- perhaps this time for good. Hanrahan, a hard thrower whose confidence has been sometimes questioned, will pitch for the foreseeable future in lower-pressure situations.

With Hanrahan out, Mike MacDougal, a former all-star closer with Kansas City, will take over the ninth inning role. The decision came one day after Hanrahan demonstrated his vulnerability and MacDougal, in the two batters he faced, looked fearless. MacDougal on Friday struck out pinch-hitter Gary Sheffield on three pitches -- all biting fastballs that traveled at least 96 mph. Then, in the tenth inning, Hanrahan yielded two runs, took another loss, and inflated his ERA to 6.84. This is the second time this year he's lost the closer's job, and this time, there was no immediate talk of nurturing him back into the role.

"We won't even think about that right now," Manager Manny Acta said. "I told him, just be ready to pitch whenever we want to, and not have any agenda about getting back or how many days, how many weeks, how many months. Just pitch. Have fun, and help the team in any way you can."

Before today's game, Acta spoke with both Hanrahan and MacDougal. Hanrahan understood the move, Acta said, but the 27-year-old righty later had little to say. "Nothing for you. I've been through it before. Same thing. That's your line," he said. (And that was all he said.) MacDougal, meantime, called the new role "an honor," and added, "I'm glad to do that, and hopefully it works out well."

MacDougal has taken a roundabout journey to the closer's job, but the 32-year-old fits in well with a bullpen composed primarily of retreads and low-paid veterans. Released by the White Sox at the end of April, MacDougal signed a non-guaranteed contract with Washington, spent three weeks with Class AAA Syracuse, and then was promoted to the big leagues on May 28. In four games (and 2-2/3 innings) since then, MacDougal has yet to allow a run.

Before I post a Q&A excerpt from Manny Acta's press conference, let's go with a few non-closer-related notes.

* Josh Willingham (viral infection) is missing his fifth consecutive game. He did take BP today, but still feels too weak to play.

* Notre Dame outfielder A.J. Pollock was at Nats Park this afternoon for a pre-draft workout. Pollock took BP at about 3 p.m. today, as just about everybody in the Nats scouting/player development department watched from behind the cages or along the first base line. Even Mark Lerner emerged. (First time all homestand I've seen him.) Who else was watching? Acting GM Mike Rizzo; scouting director Dana Brown; crosscheckers Marteese Robinson, Jimmy Gonzalez and Kris Kline; Florida-based scout Paul Tinnel; assistant GM Bob Boone; assistant director of player development Mark Scialabba; and director of baseball operations Brian Parker. Rick Eckstein and Manny Acta were also out on the field. As Pollock hit, a few current Nats -- Willingham, Willie Harris, Josh Bard and Elijah Dukes -- took early BP. At one point, Eckstein and Boone pulled Pollock aside and offered some pointers. Pollock, rated by Baseball America as the 23rd-ranked overall prospect, is described as "one of the safer bats due to steady, consistent swing and pro approach."

The Nats have the 10th and 50th overall pick, and Pollock figures to go somewhere within that window.

* Anyway, here is what Acta said about Hanrahan and MacDougal. (You'll see how the info was revealed, too.)

ACTA

Q: Did you talk at all with Joel today about confidence with his pitches?

Yeah, we had a talk today, and I guess I'm going to extend the press conference now. We're going to take him out of those late innings again. We're just going to have him relax again, pitching in the middle of games, and get his confidence back. I spoke to him, and I told him that I have a lot of faith in him, but right now he hasn't been consistent enough to be pitching out there, so he understood, he took it very well and he's going to get back at it again.

Q: So who replaces him.

Mike [MacDougal] is going to handle those duties now. He's done it in the past in Kansas City. He's thrown the ball well for us. And we're going to give him an opportunity at the end of games now.

Q: If Joel had options remaining, are you guys at the point where he would be sent to the minors for a fresh start? It's just hypothetical, but...

No, not if we have the opportunity to move him to lower innings like we have done. I think when he was pitching in the sixth, seventh inning, I think he handled himself very well in that time where he pitched there. As long as you can find spots for guys where they can be successful, I think you'll be OK. You don't need to -- I mean, you want to send a guy down if he can't pitch the ninth, the eighth, the seventh or the sixth. But I think he has pitched well when he hasn't been in the closer's role, and even at times he has pitched well, like about a week ago or so, in the closer's role. But when you're going to pitch in those innings, it's such an important part of the game not only for the pitcher but for the team overall... it's tougher. So we're just going to take all that pressure away and let him pitch again.

Q: What do you like about MacDougal?

Well he's got some nasty stuff. He's got that ball sinking in the mid-90s. He's got the slider and change-up. And if he stays consistent in the strike zone it's very tough to hit this guy. I think we saw a very small sample last night when he came in and just threw three fastballs to Sheffield. But those aren't your average fastballs. They're moving all over the place. He's got experience in the past, and we're going to give him the opportunity to do it.

Q: Did that at bat with Sheffield open your eyes?

Well, when we went to the mound that's what we asked him to do. I had an opportunity to watch some videos and to watch the MASN replay after he pitched a couple nights ago, and obviously from the side of the dugout I can't see the ball moving as well. From the side of the dugout you can only see low or high. You can't see sideways movement. So I was very impressed when I went home and watched him pitch -- that was the scoreless inning from a couple nights ago (on June 4). And so when he came in, that was the match-up we wanted. We knew they were going to pinch-hit [Sheffield]. So we told him, 'I actually want to see this guy hit what I saw on TV yesterday. Just throw him nothing but fastballs.' Because a lot of times, if a [hitter] struggles a bit with breaking balls they want to go with breaking balls, but that's not your strength. You've got to go with your strength. We asked him to throw nothing but fastballs, and it was going to be our responsibility if he would give up a hit or not. He threw three good ones and struck him out. And that's what we asked him to do, me and Cat. We said [today], 'You're going to be closing games. You've got to trust this pitch, it's a good one. Make sure you get it into the strike zone, let it take care of itself and you'll be fine.'

Q: Is the plan with Joel to eventually move him back to the closer's spot if he can get comfortable again?

We won't even think about that right now. I told him, just be ready to pitch whenever we want to, and not have any agenda about getting back or how many days, how many weeks, how many months. Just pitch. Have fun, and help the team in any way you can.

Q: Did Joel tell you in any way that he doesn't have confidence?

No. Not at all. We pulled him in to talk to him about making the move. It wasn't anything caused by him.

By Chico Harlan  |  June 6, 2009; 6:47 PM ET
 
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Next: Among The Surprises: A Win, A Complete Game

Comments

This is why I had Acta.....Fans have been calling for this move for weeks.....Read Acta's Blog and he just said yesterday that Hanrahan was the man and we all should trust him just like Acta does.......A day later he is out.....JUST LIKE THE FAN SAID HE SHOULD BE.......Time and Time again fans are more realistic and honest than Acta about what they see......Start with Milledge in CF and Lead off and walk forward to today......about 20 moves that Acta said were stupid for fans to ask about and how fans don't know what goes really have been made now.....Acta is CLUELESS......just a joke of a manager.

Posted by: JayBeee | June 6, 2009 6:56 PM | Report abuse

"No. Not at all. We pulled him in to talk to him about making the move. It wasn't anything caused by him."

manny, please stop peeing on our legs and telling us that it's raining. it wasn't anything caused by (hanrahan)? how about an opener who has allowed 38 hits in 26 IP? how about a career saves conversion rate of 67 percent? how about allowing 20 ER in 26 IP? how about a season ERA of 6.64 and a career ERA of 5.07? no, it couldn't have possibly be anything caused by hanrahan.

Posted by: surly_w | June 6, 2009 7:23 PM | Report abuse

I wish I was there so I could literally strangle the Mets fan who threw Dunn's HR back on the field. I hope that Guido stands up on the double decker back to RFK

Posted by: Kev29 | June 6, 2009 7:23 PM | Report abuse

I'm so sick of seeing all those Met fans sitting right behind the plate. Hopefully, lots of wins one day will put an end to that. I hope they suffer tonight though!!

Posted by: cokedispatch | June 6, 2009 7:32 PM | Report abuse

This is what happens when you don't win and you've got a goofball like Stan Kasten inviting the opposing team's fans with open arm's. I detest Mets and Phillies fans equally.

Posted by: dargregmag | June 6, 2009 7:50 PM | Report abuse

Looks like one of the larger crowds of the season but there is an awful lot of blue and orange. UGH!!!!

Posted by: chris88 | June 6, 2009 8:09 PM | Report abuse

the bats are back! thanks, maine!

Posted by: natinbeantown | June 6, 2009 8:17 PM | Report abuse

Man, I picked the wrong night to stay home. I was there last night, and I'm going tomorrow, and tonight is the game they crush home runs left and right.

Oh well. Maybe they can do it again tomorrow.

Go Nats!

Posted by: usmc53 | June 6, 2009 8:21 PM | Report abuse

I'll be there tomorrow, too, so I hope that the bats are still hot.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | June 6, 2009 8:23 PM | Report abuse

Eckstein is coaching third tonight. I was just thinking that I have'nt seen any runners held at third for no apparent reason. Listasch isn't as bad as Tolmon but he isn't much better.

Posted by: chris88 | June 6, 2009 8:26 PM | Report abuse

Could it be...it's a bird...it's a plane...no...could it be a laugher?
Have the Nats had anything remotely resembling a laugher this year?

Forget everything I ever said, Manny for president.

Posted by: jdschulz50 | June 6, 2009 8:26 PM | Report abuse

And the phoolies lost again, how sweet it is.

Posted by: cokedispatch | June 6, 2009 8:27 PM | Report abuse

I wanted to go tonight too, and now I'm disappointed I didn't. Nice weather, a gem of a game by Lannan (minimum # of batters faced through 6 thanks to some nice DPs), and the bats are alive. Go Nats!

By the way, that double play that Dukes started in the fourth was a weird one, wasn't it? ESPN's Gamecast: E Brown grounded into double play, right to second to first to shortstop to second, L Castillo out at second, E Brown out at second. Huh?

Posted by: BGinVA | June 6, 2009 8:28 PM | Report abuse

"Fans have been calling for this move for weeks...."
True enough, although, to be fair, there isn't much fans haven't been calling for.

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | June 6, 2009 8:33 PM | Report abuse

So much for Eck's judgment at third. Bring back the 'tache!

Posted by: jdschulz50 | June 6, 2009 8:35 PM | Report abuse

Hitting slump: OVER

Posted by: cokedispatch | June 6, 2009 8:36 PM | Report abuse

We sure do revel well don't we..lol. God forbid how we'd act if we had a multi game win streak!

Posted by: cokedispatch | June 6, 2009 8:37 PM | Report abuse

Multi-game win streak after we beat the Mutts again tomorrow.

Go Nats! Turn it around!!!!!!

Posted by: usmc53 | June 6, 2009 8:40 PM | Report abuse

Taking away the disastrous first game of the season (against the Marlins), and including tonight's game, Lannan currently has an ERA of 3.14.

Very nice.

Lannan/Martis/Zimmermann/Strasburg/Detwiler or Stammen = Great future rotation!

(sorry Olsen)

Posted by: usmc53 | June 6, 2009 8:43 PM | Report abuse

Please God do not let Acta make any pitching decisions for the rest of this game.

Posted by: MKadyman | June 6, 2009 8:45 PM | Report abuse

Hopefully there won't be any pitching decisions to make.

Posted by: usmc53 | June 6, 2009 8:49 PM | Report abuse

Beautiful double-play to end the threat! Attaboy John Lannan!

Posted by: usmc53 | June 6, 2009 8:57 PM | Report abuse

I'm so sick of seeing all those Met fans sitting right behind the plate. Hopefully, lots of wins one day will put an end to that. I hope they suffer tonight though!!

Posted by: cokedispatch | June 6, 2009 7:32 PM
--------------------------
Spend $325 at the box office or $200 at StubHub and you can sit there too!

Posted by: GoingGoingGone | June 6, 2009 9:04 PM | Report abuse

No closer needed tonight...great win.

Posted by: cokedispatch | June 6, 2009 9:11 PM | Report abuse

Hope answered, they suffered...lol

Posted by: cokedispatch | June 6, 2009 9:12 PM | Report abuse

OK, so it wasn't the Mets' most fearsome lineup, but to all the Lannan doubters, I hope this convinces you he's for real.

Posted by: nats24 | June 6, 2009 9:13 PM | Report abuse

I have to say though... I'm not sure sending Lannan home was such a great idea. A run-in with the catcher has disaster written all over it...

Posted by: SaveOurTeam | June 6, 2009 9:25 PM | Report abuse

Agreed, SOT, I didn't see the play (was listening to C&D at work), but it sure sounded like it was a pretty risky call by Eckstein. I guess we should be thankful he isn't the normal 3rd base coach, and also thankful that there wasn't a worse outcome than simply an out. I wish that I could've been here to watch it, let alone actually being at the park — much props to JL for an outstanding performance!!!!

Posted by: HotNats | June 6, 2009 9:35 PM | Report abuse

The Long Island Lefty from Long Beach comes through in a big way!

Congrats to my fellow Islander on his first CG.

Posted by: grandstander | June 6, 2009 9:37 PM | Report abuse

Next year's first round pick:

http://vault.sportsillustrated.cnn.com/vault/article/magazine/MAG1156215/1/index.htm

Posted by: Vze2sr66 | June 6, 2009 9:38 PM | Report abuse

"I wish I was there so I could literally strangle the Mets fan who threw Dunn's HR back on the field."

They should have been ejected from the game for throwing objects onto the field.

I wouldn't mind seeing that also happening to Nats fans who are idiotic enough to do that.

Posted by: joebleux | June 6, 2009 9:40 PM | Report abuse

I'm quite certain it was a horrible idea, but hey, no harm, no foul. Really, this is not the team nor the time to be tempting fate.


*******************
I have to say though... I'm not sure sending Lannan home was such a great idea. A run-in with the catcher has disaster written all over it...

Posted by: SaveOurTeam | June 6, 2009 9:25 PM | Report abuse

Agreed, SOT, I didn't see the play (was listening to C&D at work), but it sure sounded like it was a pretty risky call by Eckstein. I guess we should be thankful he isn't the normal 3rd base coach, and also thankful that there wasn't a worse outcome than simply an out. I wish that I could've been here to watch it, let alone actually being at the park — much props to JL for an outstanding performance!!!!

Posted by: HotNats | June 6, 2009 9:35 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | June 6, 2009 9:40 PM | Report abuse

Total team effort (minus the bullpen)

Posted by: GoingGoingGone | June 6, 2009 9:40 PM | Report abuse

Srsly, Joe? I'm surprised.

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | June 6, 2009 9:42 PM | Report abuse

rly. y srprsd?

Posted by: joebleux | June 6, 2009 9:48 PM | Report abuse

Woooooooooooooooooooooo!! I got my cable up and running in time to see the last (second) hour of the game, and it was a fun one!

I have to admit that I was also nervous when Eckstein sent Lannan home. Glad that he wasn't hurt. How cool to watch him pitch his first complete game!

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | June 6, 2009 9:52 PM | Report abuse

I dn't lke thm thrwng balls bck eithr.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | June 6, 2009 9:53 PM | Report abuse

You all are typing like I was speaking last night at the bar...

Posted by: HotNats | June 6, 2009 9:56 PM | Report abuse

Good game for Dukes too. I'll wipe the missed catch from my memory. He's been throwing the ball well. Of course he wasn't in a position to attempt stealing bases but when he's in our lineup it really makes a difference. I think when you've got Guzzie, NJ, RZim, Dunn and Dukes that's the right formula for pitchers to take the lineup seriously and give 'em stuff to hit.

Posted by: SaveOurTeam | June 6, 2009 9:58 PM | Report abuse

I have my usual thoughts about Manny and such... but I think tonight I'll just enjoy this one!

I was curious what Dunn said to RZim when he went up second time through. Willingham and Dunn we're checkin' out the report on Takahashi. Dunn finished that one with a "whatever... he's a geezer... I'll just got at there and slash at him..." look on his face. Was kind of funny.

When Lannan came in after getting tagged out at home... Dunn was the guy who had the gatorade ready for him. All good stuff...

Posted by: SaveOurTeam | June 6, 2009 10:06 PM | Report abuse

So good that they could put one of their best efforts for one of their best crowds. Lannan does appear to a legitimate third or fourth starter for "The Plan". It'll be interesting to see if Balester can manage to get himself back into the mix. He had another solid start at Syracuse tonight as well; 6 1/3 of 2 run ball. Just from watching them, I am more sold on Balester's stuff than Martis. Martis seems to be smoke and mirrors to me, and I just don't see him getting swing and miss strikes.

Strasburg; Detweiler; Zimmermann; Lannan; Balester would be the rotation of the future for me as of now. Have to see more of Stammen to figure out whether he can get swing and miss strikes.

Posted by: souldrummer | June 6, 2009 10:32 PM | Report abuse

From the gamer: "Meantime, Dukes unleashed a rifle throw from his rear toward the infield."

Wow. That must have been some sight to see.

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | June 6, 2009 11:03 PM | Report abuse

b/c - it's a harmless tradition, throwing Mets fans---er, home runs-- back on the field.

And stop making fun of my accent.
**************
rly. y srprsd?
Posted by: joebleux | June 6, 2009 9:48 PM |

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | June 6, 2009 11:12 PM | Report abuse

Just like any crime scene...the police say
"move on. Nothing to see here".

Nats management, despite the refreshing win...will say the same" "move on. Nothing to see here".

Despite the pretty win...tomorrow Nats fans are back to witnessing the same same ol'ugly.

Posted by: 1stBaseCoach | June 6, 2009 11:27 PM | Report abuse

but that's tomorrow.
"Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof."
Mt 6:26

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | June 6, 2009 11:46 PM | Report abuse

Okay, now *I'm* the one laughing out loud. Thanks for that, sec3. (I would think that a couple of other senses may have been engaged in witnessing such a throw as well.)

And tomorrow is here, but I'm still savoring the win. So there.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | June 7, 2009 6:29 AM | Report abuse

Was surprised to see from a comment that Balester's back to AAA(???)....I must have missed this 'news'......

Posted by: fbacolod29 | June 7, 2009 7:16 AM | Report abuse

OK saw on internet that Ballester, Colin was assigned to AAA Syracue this Saturdy....Anxious to see how Stammen does against the Mets today....

Posted by: fbacolod29 | June 7, 2009 7:59 AM | Report abuse

Balester was optioned to Syracuse in March, I believe.

Also, the last time that I saw Livo start against us in person was at RFK in 2006 (he was with the D'backs then). We beat 'em.

Go Stammen! Go Nats!!

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | June 7, 2009 8:24 AM | Report abuse

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