Red Sox’ Hanrahan returns, but not as closer

Posted April 30, 2013, at 6:07 p.m.
Last modified April 30, 2013, at 6:40 p.m.

Boston reliever Joel Hanrahan returned to the Red Sox on Tuesday, but won’t regain his role as the team’s closer. That job will continue to belong to Andrew Bailey.

With Hanrahan out with a right hamstring strain, Bailey converted five of six save chances, and has 20 strikeouts in 12 1/3 innings.

“Obviously I’ve been out of the ballgame for 15 days and (Red Sox manager John Farrell) says he’s going to kind of work me back in,” Hanrahan told reporters Tuesday. “Bailey’s been doing a heck of a job. I told him that I’m comfortable with whatever you want to do. The way the team’s playing right now, I just want to fit in and do my part to help. I’m just excited to be back.”

Hanrahan, 31, posted three saves, but had an 11.57 ERA with six earned runs allowed in 4 2/3 innings pitched. To make room on the 25-man roster, right-hander Daniel Bard was optioned to the Double-A Portland Sea Dogs.

Contreras could join Pirates

The Pirates could be adding a veteran righthander to their bullpen in time for the weekend series with Washington that begins Friday night in Pittsburgh.

Jose Contreras continues to work his way up through the Pirates’ farm system after being signed as a minor-league free agent during spring training. The 41-year-old appears to be recovered from Tommy John reconstructive elbow surgery that he underwent last June.

Contreras has pitched in five minor-league games over the last two weeks, including twice for Class AAA Indianapolis. In those two games, he allowed one run and one hit in two innings with no walks and three strikeouts.

“He was in a good form,” said manager Clint Hurdle, whose Pirates lost to the Brewers 10-4 Monday.

Contreras is expected to pitch for Indianapolis again on Tuesday. If that goes well, he will likely be added to the major-league roster Friday.

“The reports have been very good,” general manager Neal Huntington said. “We feel he can help us, give us another quality arm in our bullpen and a veteran presence in a rather young bullpen.

In all, Contreras has given up two runs in six innings in his five minor-league games.

Contreras spent the last three seasons with Philadelphia and was 1-0 with a 5.27 ERA in 17 games in 2012. He has also played for the New York Yankees (2003-04), the Chicago White Sox (2004-09) and Colorado (2009).

Hughes hitting stride for Yankees

Yankees’ righty Phil Hughes may finally be hitting his stride and it couldn’t come at a better time for New York.

With hitting stars Derek Jeter, Mark Teixeira, Curtis Granderson and Alex Rodriguez all out with injuries, New York has had to persevere with strong pitching. With three strong starts in a row, including Sunday’s no-decision in a 3-2 win over Toronto at Yankee Stadium, he joined CC Sabathia, Hiroki Kuroda and Andy Pettitte, who have had mostly good numbers this season.

Pettitte wasn’t particularly sharp Monday, however, taking the loss while lasting only 4 1/3 innings in a 9-1 loss to the Houston Astros.

Hughes hasn’t gotten a decision in any of the three games — exiting with the Bombers down 2-1 in each — but has a 2.70 ERA over 20 innings in the three outings. It’s a strong bounce back from his two poor starts to begin the season. On Sunday he allowed seven hits and struck out a season-high nine in six innings.

Hughes may have been hampered at the start of the season because he missed time with a bulging disc in his neck. Yankees’ manager Joe Girardi believes that the progress is a natural product of getting to pitch regularly.

“It could just be the innings under his belt,” Girardi said. “I thought his last start he mixed his pitchers better than he had in the previous starts. Maybe he is getting more of a feel for his curveball, slider and changeup.”

“It’s just a matter of getting some arm strength and getting my feet under me,” Hughes said. “In the spring I really didn’t get that much time. It’s going to take me a little while. I was hoping it wasn’t. I am happy with the last three starts.”

Always at issue for Hughes is pitch-count. In just the third and fourth innings he threw 23 pitches after retiring the first two batters in the frame.

He also says that reigning in his emotions during a game is going to be a focus. Toronto scored its first run on three meek hits — a dribbler down the third base line thought to be going foul that didn’t, a flare to left and a roller through the middle of the infield — and he said it bothered him.

“I gave up three hits and none of them were hit that well,” Hughes said. “I have to do better at letting the frustration go and not let it go over to the next at bat when I give one of those up. … I can’t let the frustration come out in a negative way. I have to tell myself to let it go.”

“I thought he was pretty good. It’s unfortunate the first run he gave up. You’re going to see hits like that. You usually don’t see three in a row. He pitched really well.”

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