Nationals Notebook

Hanrahan Gets His Chance To Be Closer

By Chico Harlan
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, July 23, 2008

SAN FRANCISCO, July 22 -- Last year, Joel Hanrahan was a starting pitcher. That was his role; it also was his mind-set. Then the Washington Nationals moved him full-time to the bullpen this season. And Tuesday, with the trade of closer Jon Rauch to the Arizona Diamondbacks, Hanrahan took another step in his progression as a reliever: He'll get the chance to finish ballgames.

"I didn't think it would happen this year," Hanrahan said.

That's because Washington started the year asking Hanrahan to pitch only in the middle innings, the sixth or seventh. The team already had Chad Cordero and Rauch at the back of the bullpen. But now, with one injured and one traded, Hanrahan, who has a 3.94 ERA, will get the first chance to fill a void.

"He's been our most dominant guy out of our bullpen and has the best numbers, so he'll get the crack at it," Manager Manny Acta said.

Surgery for Peña

Outfielder Wily Mo Peña had shoulder surgery Tuesday in Cincinnati, ending the season of the Nationals' most disappointing player. Orthopedist Tim Kremchek repaired a partial yet significant tear of Peña's rotator cuff, as well as a tear and fraying of his posterior labrum. As a result, Peña's arm will be placed in a sling for three weeks; he is expected to be out for four to six months but ready for spring training in 2009.

General Manager Jim Bowden called the surgery "devastating," and indicated that the damage to his left fielder's shoulder was far more significant than originally thought. Peña had tried to play through the injury during much of the season's first half. Though he never used the shoulder pain as an excuse, his performance declined from previous years. Through 195 at-bats, Peña had a .205 average, and his slugging percentage, .267, was fifth worst in baseball among players with at least 150 at-bats.

"It was a really big surgery," Bowden said. "I don't think it was expected to be that severe. The doctors do not understand how he could have swung a baseball bat. They have absolutely no idea. . . . The doctors were absolutely amazed that he was on the field."

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