Pirates announce Joel Hanrahan will begin season as closer

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Joel Hanrahan entered camp as the favorite to claim ninth-inning duties in Pittsburgh and the Pirates wasted little time making it official, announcing this afternoon that he’ll begin the season as closer.

While his 3.62 ERA last season may appear mediocre, Hanrahan had a breakout season with 100 strikeouts and a .221 opponents’ batting average in 70 innings. Among all pitchers with at least 50 innings last season only Carlos Marmol (16.0) and Billy Wagner (13.5) racked up more strikeouts per nine innings than Hanrahan (12.9)

He also cut down on his walks, handing out a career-low 3.4 free passes per nine innings, and served up just six homers in 294 plate appearances. Hanrahan lacks closer experience, but he certainly doesn’t lack closer stuff. Pittsburgh may not have a ton of late leads to protect, but with left-hander Evan Meek (2.14 ERA, 70/31 K/BB ratio in 80 innings) setting up Hanrahan the back of the bullpen should be one of their few strengths.

Report: Red Sox expected to announce J.D. Martinez signing on Monday

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Tomorrow will mark a week since the Red Sox reportedly inked outfielder J.D. Martinez to a five-year, $110 million contract. The signing hasn’t been made official yet, however, due to an apparent medical issue. That will change tomorrow morning as the Red Sox have a press conference scheduled with Martinez where they’re expected to announce the signing at long last, Evan Drellich of NBC Sports Boston reports.

According to Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports, the terms of the deal aren’t expected to change. Presumably, the Red Sox had some safeguards put into the contract to protect them against whatever spooked them with the results of Martinez’s physical.

Martinez, 30, was the top free agent hitter after batting .303/.376/.690 with 45 home runs and 104 RBI in 489 plate appearances last season with the Tigers and Diamondbacks. He has expressed an interest in continuing to play in the outfield, but MLB.com’s Ian Browne says he will get a majority of his playing time as a DH with the Red Sox. Hanley Ramirez will share first base with Mitch Moreland.