PITTSBURGH -- During the Pirates' 1-6 stretch, Joel Hanrahan has been limited mostly to a spectator role, as manager Clint Hurdle opted not to turn to his closer in three extra-inning games or in a one-run contest on Monday.
Hurdle's decision to not use his club's best reliever in a number of games over the past week can be debated. Especially since, while Hanrahan was staying ready for a save opportunity, the bullpen lost all three road games that went into extra innings.
Don't think that Hurdle hasn't jumped into the debate as well, weighing numerous factors in each decision to go to someone other than No. 52.
"Could I be more aggressive with him? Absolutely, I could be more aggressive with him," Hurdle said. "Where that will take us ... I'm trying to use common sense. I'm trying to make sure I'm tied to his arm. And I'm trying to play into our pitching coach's knowledge of what he sees."
Hurdle noted that Hanrahan would have been brought in to pitch the 10th inning on Sunday had Chris Resop been able to set down the Phillies in the ninth. But when Resop struggled, Hurdle had to turn to Tony Watson to get the final out of the inning.
Because of the workload the bullpen had already carried on the road trip, Hurdle didn't feel he had the luxury of using Watson for just that one out. As a result, Watson went out to pitch the 10th, and the Phillies collected a walk-off hit against him.
Plenty else has gone into consideration. With 46 appearances this year, Hanrahan is on pace for 70. Hurdle doesn't want to elevate that pace too much by using Hanrahan in non-save situations.
There's also the concern of pitch count and how strong Hanrahan could stay if he's needed to pitch more than one inning. Had Hanrahan gone in to pitch in a tie game, Hurdle said, he would have been tempted to send Hanrahan out for another if the Pirates had taken the lead. Effectiveness could become an issue at that point.
"It's a fine line," Hurdle said. "It's an area of growth for, I think, any manager when you start looking at different dynamics of the bullpen and how to construct it. We'll continue to revisit it."
If there is any good news out of all this, it's that Hanrahan is well rested. Since July 19 he has appeared in only three games.