PITTSBURGH -- Joel Hanrahan does not lead the Majors in saves -- Huston Street and Brian Wilson share that distinction with 23 apiece entering Sunday -- but it's hard to argue that there is currently a better closer than the one that comes out of PNC Park's bullpen to the sound of Slipknot's "Before I Forget."
Hanrahan nailed down save No. 22 on Saturday and remains the only National League closer to have more than five saves and not a single blown opportunity. That run is mighty impressive, especially given Hanrahan's lack of sustained success in the ninth-inning role before this season.
"It's been as good a run as I've seen in a very long time," manager Clint Hurdle said. "The one guy he does remind me of that I faced a few times is Goose Gossage. He's a big-body guy out there. He's raring back and letting it eat. If your foot is not down by the time he grunts, you're going to be late."
Hanrahan, who is 268 saves shy of Gossage's 310, laughed off the comparison.
"You need to go check [Hurdle's] pulse in there," said Hanrahan, who is expected to receive an invitation to the All-Star Game when rosters are announced next Sunday. "That's obviously a huge comparison. I'm just being aggressive. I've got a big body, so I'm using it."
Hanrahan has built himself into one of the game's most feared closers behind a nasty fastball-slider combination. His fastball, which sits consistently in the upper 90s, has been so tough to catch up to that he hasn't even needed the slider at times this year. On Saturday, he stuck with the fastball for 23 straight pitches before ending the game with the slider.
Hanrahan had not allowed a baserunner in eight straight save opportunities until Dustin Pedroia knocked a two-out double on Saturday. The big righty has allowed just two runs in his 22 save chances.
"We feel very confident with the game on the line and Joel Hanrahan with the ball in his hand," second baseman Neil Walker said.
Fryer debuts a day after callup
PITTSBURGH -- Just a little more than 24 hours after receiving news of his callup while having breakfast with his family at Panera Bread, Eric Fryer arrived in the Pirates' clubhouse to find his name in Sunday's starting lineup. It was the Major League debut for the 25-year-old catcher who was playing Class A ball at this time last summer.
"It didn't really cross my mind," Fryer said when asked if he could have anticipated such a rapid climb through the Minors this season. "I was hoping just to start in [Double-A] Altoona and kind of play myself [up] as soon as possible. Obviously, my results have been pretty good in the Minors, so hopefully that kind of continues now."
Fryer did start with Altoona, where he batted .345 and drove in 16 in 37 games. The production, along with the Bucs' suddenly depleted catching depth, prompted the organization to bump Fryer up to Triple-A, where he hit .262 in 21 games.
Fryer's arrival in Pittsburgh coincided with the club's decision to part ways with Dusty Brown, who disappointed on both the offensive and defensive end. He had three hits in 30 at-bats and was surprisingly shaky as a receiver.
"I think the combination of [Fryer's] skill set at this time gives us a better option at catcher than Dusty's," manager Clint Hurdle said. "Dusty gave us everything he had. Offensively, there wasn't much he was able to put forward and we had some troubles on defense."
Michael McKenry will still get the majority of starts for the Pirates, who are 8-4 since the team acquired him from the Red Sox.
"I still just want to, as best I can, run the pitching staff," Fryer said. "That's the one priority. Hopefully that continues up here."
Presley may be brought up to fill DH role
PITTSBURGH -- One way or another, Alex Presley appears to be on his way to Pittsburgh.
The Pirates were already expected to call up the Triple-A outfielder in advance of needing a designated hitter for three games in Toronto. That three-game series begins on Tuesday.
But after seeing Jose Tabata wheeled off the field on a stretcher in the first inning of Sunday's game, the Pirates might need another outfielder for much longer than one Interleague series.
If the Bucs need to place Tabata on the disabled list, Presley would be the natural choice to take his place in Pittsburgh. He was pulled from Indianapolis' lineup just minutes after Tabata exited the field with a left quad injury.
With another two hits in Indianapolis' win on Saturday, Presley now has 98 in 75 Triple-A games. That is more than any other player in the International League. Presley's .336 batting average ranks third in the IL. He has also swiped 18 bases in 22 tries.
"He continues to understand what he can do as a hitter, what his strengths are in the batter's box, on the bases and defensively," general manager Neal Huntington said of Presley. "He obviously had a tremendous first half down there in Triple-A and has forced his way up here. He's certainly earned every opportunity he's going to get up here."
If Tabata is able to avoid a DL stint, the Pirates could add Presley by sending down infielder Pedro Ciriaco. Though this would leave the club short an infielder for a few days, it would give manager Clint Hurdle another bat to consider for the DH spot.
After making his last start on June 14, top pitching prospect Jameson Taillon will return to the mound this week. The Pirates used the recent low-A All-Star break to manage Taillon's innings and also wanted to be cautious as he's been dealing with some tightness in his right pectoral muscle. Taillon has already pitched 42 2/3 innings for West Virginia and has a 3.16 ERA through 10 starts.
Pedro Alvarez remains day-to-day with neck stiffness that surfaced when he woke up Friday. Alvarez continues to make progress with his right quadriceps injury and has been cleared to resume baseball activities once his neck is no longer an issue.
The Bucs are continuing to reevaluate the next step for right-hander Kevin Hart, who has hit a plateau in his attempt to return from May 2010 right shoulder surgery.
Ross Ohlendorf (right shoulder posterior strain) continues to throw in simulated games in Bradenton, Fla. He'll take a little break in the coming week, but will then continue to build up his arm strength through simulated games before he begins a Minor League rehab stint. "We're being ultra-conservative with Ross, but everything is going well," general manager Neal Huntington said.
Lefty Tony Watson was unavailable out of the bullpen Sunday after throwing in the first two games of the series.
Regardless of how the Pirates finish the month, they are assured of having a winning June. The club entered Sunday 14-9. The Pirates haven't posted 15 wins in a month since going 15-13 in May 2008.
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, and follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.