Hanrahan Looking Sharp As a Reliever

By Barry Svrluga
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, March 12, 2008

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla., March 11 -- Washington Nationals right-hander Joel Hanrahan has made 201 professional appearances in a career that dates from 2000. One hundred ninety-three of those have come as a starter. But because he struggled to keep his pitch counts down with Washington in 2007, he came to spring training as a reliever.

The results prior to Tuesday were surprisingly solid. Tuesday night, they were downright stunning. Hanrahan threw three innings in a 2-2 tie with the Atlanta Braves, striking out eight of the 10 men he faced, including the last seven. In the sixth -- using a fastball that broke 95 mph and a hard, 87-mph slider -- he struck out Atlanta sluggers Chipper Jones, Mark Teixeira and Jeff Francoeur in order.

"It is only spring training," Hanrahan said. "I don't really know what to say about it."

Hanrahan struggled to a 6.00 ERA in his 12 appearances -- 11 starts -- with the 2007 Nationals. After giving up a single Tuesday, he has allowed just two hits in 7 2/3 innings with one walk and 12 strikeouts. He said he is growing accustomed to the idea of being a reliever.

"It's not something I'm familiar with," Hanrahan said. "I kind of like it so far."

Hanrahan is out of options, so the Nationals can't send him to the minors without risking losing him to another team. Manager Manny Acta said the way he is performing, Hanrahan has an excellent chance to make the team.

"I think he had the right attitude toward the move," Acta said. "He hasn't complained at all."

P¿rez Nearly Cleared for Work

Left-hander Odalis P¿rez, who has yet to pitch in a Grapefruit League game because of problems securing a work visa in his native Dominican Republic, was scheduled to return home Tuesday night, pick up the visa Wednesday and be back in Nationals camp by Thursday morning. His first turn against major league competition should come shortly thereafter.

General Manager Jim Bowden said Jose Rijo, one of his special assistants, helped secure the visa. P¿rez was originally scheduled to pick it up March 27, which would not have given him a chance to face hitters in front of paying customers before the season started.

P¿rez, 30, has thrown twice against Nationals minor leaguers, impressing club officials. He said after his last appearance, however, that he badly wants to pitch against big league hitters.

"I'm satisfied," Acta said. "It's one thing if it's minor league hitters or big league hitters, but the other thing is he's keeping the ball down. He's throwing all his pitches." . . .

Third baseman Ryan Zimmerman was removed from the game after his fourth at-bat with tightness in his right hip flexor. "I could have played," he said. "But there's no point risking anything now."

He is scheduled for a day off Wednesday.

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