By Ashley Dunkak
CBS DETROIT – For new Detroit Tigers reliever Joel Hanrahan, spring training starts now, meaning he could be ready to pitch for the Tigers in five or six weeks, according to his agent Larry Reynolds.
“The history of these injuries, it’s case-by-case, but optimistically, there’s some time frames anywhere from five to eight weeks from now,” Reynolds said in a teleconference Friday. “We don’t know. He’s got to go through a spring training-type scenario. He hasn’t thrown ball to first, he hasn’t done any PFP, he’s not had a ball hit back at him or fielded a bunt.
“As far as health, our doctors have told us he’s ready to go,” Reynolds continued. “It’s just a matter now of him building up strength … Getting there an extra week or two early at the expense of long-term benefit we don’t think is the way to go about it. When he’s ready, he’ll get there.”
The Tigers have placed Hanrahan, who will join the organization’s Single-A club in Lakeland, Fla., on the 15-day disabled list with right elbow surgery. The team announced a corresponding move will be made later.
Hanrahan had pitched in the major leagues since 2007 but missed almost the entire 2013 season following Tommy John surgery. He seemed optimistic about his recovery, however, saying he has worked hard and that – “knock on wood” – there have been no setbacks so far.
A few weeks ago, Hanrahan impressed scouts with a workout during which he hit 93 miles per hour, according to CBS Sports. The pitcher made it clear Friday that he expects the speed to increase as he goes through more workouts.
“Hopefully with putting a hitter in a box and some adrenaline that velocity will come up because obviously I’ve been kind of a velocity-type guy with a breaking ball,” Hanrahan said. “Right now I feel good. My arm feels good, my body feels good. I’m able to throw a slider again, which I haven’t been able to do for a while. Feeling good and look forward to the next part of the process of facing some hitters.”
Hanrahan signed an incentive-laden one-year deal with the Tigers for a reported $1 million guaranteed, according to USA Today’s Bob Nightengale. Reynolds said he and Hanrahan were not concerned that Hanrahan would not be filling the closer role for the Tigers, who signed Joe Nathan in the offseason.
“We weren’t really concerned about what role Joel’s in,” Reynolds said. “Joel’s established in the baseball world that he’s one of the best closers in the game, so for us, it was more about getting in a winning environment.
“Whether Joel closes or not, we weren’t really concerned about this year at all because it’s about him going back and performing at a healthy level, but also in terms of his production and performance, we felt like it didn’t matter if he threw the seventh or eighth inning,” Reynolds added. “He’s got a great resume and he can always go back and be a closer later on if things develop the way we hope.”
While Hanrahan missed almost the entire season in 2013, his numbers before were solid. In 2012 he threw in 63 games and recorded 36 saves and an ERA of 2.72. The previous season, Hanrahan had 40 saves and an ERA of 1.83.
Hit hard before the season even began by the loss of expected set-up man Bruce Rondon, who also needed Tommy John surgery, Detroit’s bullpen currently has one of the worst collective ERAs in the major leagues.