Joel Hanrahan expected to win Pirates’ ninth inning gig

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With the start of spring training each year comes the start of position battles — two or three guys, fighting for one roster spot or one particular gig.

The Braves have a position battle going on in the back end of their bullpen, where Craig Kimbrel and Jonny Venters are vying to become Billy Wagner’s replacement at closer. The Pirates have a similar thing going on between hard-throwing relievers Joel Hanrahan and Evan Meek.

Pittsburgh manager Clint Hurdle is not expected to settle on one of the two until well into the Grapefruit League schedule, but one Pirates beat writer has identified a favorite.

Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review wrote Sunday in his “Spring Training At A Glance” column that “most signs point toward” Hanrahan winning the gig because of his past experience closing games and his heftier contract.

Hanrahan, 29, posted a 3.62 ERA, 1.21 WHIP and struck out 100 batters in only 69.2 innings last season. He will make $1.4 million this year as a first-year arbitration-eligible player. Meek, 27, finished with a 2.14 ERA, 1.05 WHIP and 70 strikeouts in 80 innings in 2010. He is not yet eligible for salary arbitration.

The Pirates might not have the greatest overall roster, but the back end of their bullpen should be just fine.

Report: Tigers to hire Ron Gardenhire as new manager

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The Tigers are expected to hire Ron Gardenhire as the team’s new manager upon completion of a contract, per Ken Rosenthal and Katie Strang of The Athletic. Gardenhire, 59, spent the 2017 season serving as the bench coach for the Diamondbacks.

Gardenhire managed the Twins for 13 seasons between 2002-14, amassing a 1,068-1,039 (.507) record in the regular season and reaching the playoffs six times.

According to Strang and Rosenthal, Gardenhire was one of 10 candidates to interview with the Tigers. Others included Alex Cora, Mike Redmond, Fredi Gonzalez, Joe McEwing, Hensley Meulens, Dave Clark, and Omar Vizquel. Apparently, GM Al Avila wanted a manager with previous major league managing experience.

The Tigers parted ways with previous manager Brad Ausmus at the end of the 2017 regular season, his fourth year at the helm.