Joel Hanrahan was called up to the majors in 2007 and has pitched in 353 games since with the Nationals and Pirates. But until Tuesday, he had never stepped foot in Fenway Park.
The new Red Sox closer took an extensive tour on a clear winter’s day, taking a look inside the clubhouse before pausing in the box seats behind home plate and making his way out to left field to peer inside the scoreboard.
Hanrahan climbed up to the Monster Seats and eventually made his way to the press box for a chat with reporters.
“It’s a lot nicer than I thought it was going to be,’’ Hanrahan said. “Obviously they’ve put some money into it over the years. It’s bigger than I thought it was. I think it would be awesome to watch a game sitting in the stands. I’ll be a little closer getting to watch it. It’s definitely a pretty amazing sight to see.’’
The righthander’s wife, Kim, was born in Virginia but spent time in the Brockton area while growing up and became a Sox fan. She has been to games at Fenway.
“She said it’s awesome. The environment of a baseball game is completely different than any other place that she has been. It’ll be a fun experience,’’ Hanrahan said.
How well Hanrahan pitches will determine how much fun he has. He had 76 saves and a 2.24 earned run average in the last two seasons for Pittsburgh, striking out 128 over 128⅓ innings.
With Hanrahan due a hefty raise in arbitration, the Pirates traded him to the Red Sox in a six-player deal last month. Hanrahan becomes eligible for free agency after this season.
Hanrahan now has to face questions about whether a closer from a small-market team in the National League can handle the pressure of pitching in the American League East.
“That’s fine,’’ he said. “You can say that, but you have to go back and look [at his track record]. My job is to get three people out in the ninth inning before I give up a lead. I feel like I’ve been in some big games. I feel like I’ve been in some tough spots.
“No matter where you go you’re going to have doubters anyway. I try not to pay attention to that. My job is to go out there and save the victory for the team. If we have a three-run lead [and] I give up two runs in that game, I’m going to be the same guy. I’ll be happy that we won that game.’’
Hanrahan seemed at ease with the give-and-take with reporters, projecting an affable confidence.
“I’m sure I’m going to say some dumb things. I’m going to say some stupid things. People are going to go crazy on Twitter with it. It’ll be written,’’ he said. “I know that’s going to happen and I’ll be fine.’’
Hanrahan is spending a few days in Boston. He’ll find a place to live, meet with manager John Farrell, and generally get acclimated to his new team.
To that end, he will not return to Team USA in the World Baseball Classic. Hanrahan, who pitched in the 2009 event, wants to spent time getting to know his new teammates and coaches. Kim also is expecting the couple’s first child in March.
Hanrahan believes the Red Sox can have one of the better bullpens in the game, especially if former closer Andrew Bailey can bounce back from a thumb injury that limited him to 19 games last season.
Hanrahan doesn’t know Bailey. He called a mutual friend, former Oakland pitcher Brandon McCarthy, to ask about his new teammate.
“[McCarthy] said he’s going to be a great guy. He thinks that we’ll get along great,’’ Hanrahan said. “All you can do is root for each other to have success and pull for the team. That’s what we’re going to do, I believe.
“He was in a tough spot. Any time you injure your hand in spring training, that’s not fun. Especially coming over to a new team. I’m sure he’s got something to prove this year.’’
As the Red Sox seek to complete a contract agreement with Mike Napoli, one alternative vanished when the Washington Nationals retained free agent Adam LaRoche with a two-year, $24 million deal with a mutual option for 2015.
The Red Sox had kept open communication with LaRoche, but had not pursued him since Napoli agreed to terms on a three-year deal in December. That agreement has since been stalled over an issue — believed to be a hip injury — discovered in Napoli’s physical.
The Nationals could trade outfielder/first baseman Mike Morse now that LaRoche will remain on their roster. Morse, like Napoli, is a righthanded hitter with power. He has 64 home runs and a .296 batting average over the last three seasons and has 94 career starts at first base.
Several teams, including the Yankees, have interest in Morse. The Red Sox, to this point, remain focused on Napoli.