Thursday, February 15, 2007

Hansen Getting Closer

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- When Craig Hansen opened the message from his brother and found a link to a website, he was puzzled by what popped up on the screen: a house in Colorado, and the fact that it was for sale.
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Huh? For the reliever, who stays away from television and newspapers, it was a mystery. Until he learned that it was a reaction to the recent Todd Helton trade rumors, in which his name was mentioned. But that seems to be behind Hansen. And instead of focusing on shifting his life to the Rocky Mountains, he can concentrate on improving upon a 2006 season in which he struggled mightily, its low point a demotion to Pawtucket after he gave up 10th-inning homers to Jason Giambi and Jorge Posada in a loss Aug. 20 to the Yankees.
"I think that can help me more than probably, say, a good season," Hansen said yesterday of his 6.63 ERA in his first extended time in the big leagues. "Basically, I go into the offseason pretty angry at myself for not having the season that I would like, and it showed me what I did wrong and what I have to work on."
After an offseason spent mostly in Boston -- where he got to explore some of the better restaurants and get a feel for navigating the city -- Hansen feels the studying he's done will better prepare him for his ultimate challenge this spring, making the team. Even with the closer's spot unsettled in the wake of Jonathan Papelbon's anticipated move to the starting rotation, Hansen is far from a lock to make the roster out of spring training, especially given manager Terry Francona's recent comments, which could portend a minor league stint.
"This kid needs to pitch a little," Francona said Feb. 6. "If we were convinced he could do it [close] -- and I hope we do reach that decision -- we would have a heck of a decision to make. I hope that happens."
Meanwhile, Hansen has been talking to new pitching coach John Farrell, though they're still in the getting-to-know-you stage, in an effort to revert to the success he had at St. John's, where he was a dominating closer. And to get there, it's back to basics.
"Pitching-wise, it's, you know, basically mechanics," Hansen said, emphasizing his need to keep his pitches low in the strike zone and get ahead of hitters. "You can always work on mechanics, no matter how many years you've got in this league. That's your bread and butter.
"There was a lot of mirror work involved [in the offseason] where I was able to see myself and basically pinpoint what I was doing wrong. A lot of video work where I was able to see certain outings where maybe I didn't do so well or maybe I had a good outing. I was able to see the difference between the two. One thing was just speeding up. Like the veterans say, you've got to slow down the game. The ball's in your hands. You're the pitcher and you control the speed, the pace of the game."
Now all he's got to do is prove to the Red Sox that he can control that speed (and get batters out) at the major league level.
Media frenzy Media relations director John Blake said that about 120 Japanese media members requested credentials for spring training, along with approximately 150 media members from the United States. The team credentialed 80-85 Japanese media. Blake said the numbers were approximately twice those he dealt with in his former role as the Rangers' media relations director . . . With lefthanded pitcher Lenny DiNardo being claimed off waivers by Oakland yesterday , J.D. Drew was finally added to the 40-man roster in anticipation of his arrival with the rest of the position players by Tuesday. The 27-year-old DiNardo, who spent much of last season (May 24 to Aug. 31) struggling with a neck injury, went 1-2 with a 7.85 ERA in 13 games (six starts) in the major leagues in 2006. He came to the organization as a Rule 5 draft choice in 2003 from the Mets . . . Javier Lopez and Mike Burns were the only new faces to arrive at camp yesterday . . . Josh Beckett, Tim Wakefield, and Mike Timlin were in Daytona Beach last night for the unveiling of the partnership between the Red Sox and Roush Racing -- Sox owner John Henry bought a 50 percent stake in the team. Beckett left from Fort Myers, while the others came from their homes

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