Bucs' closer's role isn't etched in stone
GM says Hanrahan, Meek both capable of doing job
PITTSBURGH -- Neal Huntington sees the battle for the Pirates' closing role as a competition, not a controversy.
Neither the Pirates general manager nor skipper John Russell would deem Evan Meek or Joel Hanrahan as the club's closer following the trade of Octavio Dotel to the Dodgers at the Deadline last week. But consecutive poor outings from Hanrahan on Friday and Saturday have brought new questions about the job.
Huntington remained steadfast in his belief that one man alone may not be needed to provide stability to the role, saying the most important outs can often come in the seventh or eighth inning.
"You can look back over the last five-seven years and you can see World Series championship teams that have change closers once, twice, maybe even three times during the season," Huntington said. "So while it's ideal, no, I don't believe we think it's an absolute necessity. And in Joel and in Evan we feel we've got two pitchers that are capable of closing out games on given nights."
Hanrahan entered Friday's action having allowed five runs over his past 27 innings -- 27 outings -- but he has now given up five runs over the past two games after surrendering a game-tying three-run home run to Ian Stewart in the ninth inning on Saturday. Hanrahan's ERA, which was 3.40 prior to Friday, is now 4.20.
"We'll see how things go for the rest of this year," Huntington said. "And if we end up with two guys closing our games for us for the rest of this year, and it works out fine, maybe we go into it next year. If one guy definitively grabs the job and runs with it, then we have our answer."
Pirates general manager Neal Huntington, on Saturday night's dramatic 10-inning win: "Hopefully it's a sign of things to come. A lot of good things early, good things offensively, but some missed opportunities. We left a lot of runners on base and really, it shouldn't have been a three-run game in the ninth inning. We have got to learn from those missed opportunities." ... Pedro Alvarez's walk-off homer Saturday night was the Pirates' second of the season and the 16th walk-off blast in PNC Park history. Ryan Doumit hit one on May 23 against Atlanta. ... Since his first Major League home run on July 3, Alvarez is tied for third in the National League with 10 home runs. ... Delwyn Young's pinch-hit single in the eighth inning on Saturday was his 13th pinch-hit of the season, second in the Majors behind the Cardinals' Joe Inglett. ... The Pirates have homered in four consecutive games. They homered in five straight July 24-29. ... Right-hander Charlie Morton gave up one run on five hits over six innings for Triple-A Indianapolis on Saturday, striking out five and walking two. He did not figure in the final decision, a 6-4 loss to Louisville.
Matt Fortuna is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.