FORT MYERS, Fla. – Joel Hanrahan last started a regular-season game in 2007, so pitching the top of the first was an unusual experience for Boston’s new closer.
About a half-hour before the Red Sox took on Northeastern in the first game of a doubleheader Thursday, Hanrahan wasn’t completely sure what to do.
“Should I get going? Should I wait? But I took it kind of as a real game when I was warming up,” he said. “I took my normal 18 pitches to get ready for a game, walked in the dugout, grabbed a drink of water and went out. It wasn’t bad.”
Hanrahan struck out two hitters in the first inning, and the Red Sox beat Northeastern 3-0 in the first exhibition game of spring training. They then routed Boston College 11-1 in the doubleheader’s second game.
Hanrahan was brought in to anchor the Boston bullpen this season but the Red Sox gave him the start for the opener. Both games were seven innings.
Northeastern’s Aaron Barbosa led off with a two-strike single, and that was the only hit Hanrahan allowed. The right-hander also hit Jason Vosler with a pitch in his only inning.
“I was happy with how it went,” Hanrahan said. “I wasn’t planning on hitting that kid — poor guy. But I threw strikes for the most part so I was happy with that.”
Adding to the informal vibe, the Red Sox came out to bat in the bottom of the seventh against Northeastern even though they led 3-0. Boston tacked on two runs, which weren’t included in the box score.
Boston used seven pitchers for an inning each in the opener, and none of them allowed more than one hit. Daniel Bard worked the second, allowing a single to his first batter before striking out the next three.
“I’m satisfied,” Bard said. “Not perfect obviously but it’s a huge step in the right direction. It’s always good to get out the gate with some good results.”
Boston beat Northeastern 25-0 last year but this time the Huskies were more competitive, even though several regulars started the game for the Red Sox. Designated hitter Jarrod Saltalamacchia opened the scoring with an RBI double in the first, and Boston added runs in the fifth and sixth.
Hanrahan started 11 games for Washington in his first big league season but he’s been exclusively a reliever ever since.
He saved 76 games in the last two seasons for Pittsburgh, which made him an attractive target for a Boston team that lost 93 games in 2012.
Andrew Bailey was expected to be Boston’s closer last season but missed most of the year with an injury, and now Hanrahan is taking over that role.
Bard is hoping to bounce back after going 5-6 with a 6.22 ERA last year. Manager John Farrell was satisfied with what he saw from both him and Hanrahan.
“As we set out every pitcher to go the mound — establish fastball, attack the zone with it. Both did,” Farrell said. “The objective that we set out today, we’ve been able to accomplish that.”
Andrew Miller, Alex Wilson, Clayton Mortensen, Pedro Beato and Anthony Carter pitched the rest of the first game for the Red Sox.
Jacoby Ellsbury, Dustin Pedroia and Shane Victorino were at the top of the Boston batting order for the first game, but against Boston College, the Red Sox went with lesser-known hitters. Catcher Dan Butler hit a two-run homer as part of an eight-run third inning, and Shannon Wilkerson added a two-run shot in the fifth.
Koji Uehara started the second game, and Bailey followed him by tossing a scoreless second inning. Non-roster invite Terry Doyle, who went to Boston College, pitched the final two innings for the Red Sox.
NOTES: Boston has won all 11 meetings with Northeastern by a combined score of 139-6. The Red Sox are 23-0 against Boston College by a combined score of 218-41. The Red Sox take on the Tampa Bay Rays on Saturday. Right-hander John Lackey, who was sidelined all last year following elbow-ligament replacement surgery, is expected to pitch in that game.