DETROIT-- Joel Hanrahan has been good when it most matters -- nine conversions in 10 save opportunities. But the Pirates closer's outings have been a bit too exciting, only four of 15 having been three-up, three-down.
Pirates manager Clint Hurdle even coined a term for what the big righty has been giving him: "Hanrattack."
On Saturday, however, Hanrahan seemed to turn a significant corner with his final pitch of the Bucs' 4-3 victory over the Tigers, the 89-mph slider waved at by Prince Fielder for the game-ending strikeout.
That hard slider is a new weapon in Hanrahan's arsenal, one he developed this spring. Having a new put-away pitch between the 98-mph fastball and the more typical 84-mph slider could raise to yet a higher level a guy who has already nailed 53 of his last 58 save opportunities.
"To throw that pitch that struck out Fielder ... that was a very good sign for me," Hurdle said.
"It's a pitch I came up with in Spring Training and it's been effective so far. I've been going to it to get some strikeouts," said Hanrahan, who this season has 17 strikeouts in 14 2/3 innings. "I mix it in there once in a while and if I put it in the right spot, I've had success with it."