Hanrahan: Ready for a new challenge

Joel Hanrahan: Ready for a new challenge

Last week, our manager, Manny Acta, announced I was going to be the closer for now. It's a position that I want to be in. Unfortunately, since the decision was made, we just haven't had any save opportunities. It's been seven days, and I'm a little anxious.

I have pitched the final innings of some games, but I haven't felt the pressure of a save situation yet.

Just a short time ago, I was a starter. Since going to the bullpen, I've seen all aspects of being a reliever, except for closer. I've worked my way toward the back end. It's exciting to be where I am now. I'm looking forward to this opportunity.

This is really the first year I have worked in relief. Throughout my Minor League career, I was almost exclusively a starter. Last year, my first year in the big leagues, I started 11 of the 12 games I pitched in.

When I was starting, I threw a 90-95 mph fastball, a slider and a changeup. As a reliever, I've only used two pitches. I've stuck with my fastball and my slider. I still work on my changeup, but it hasn't been as sharp since going to the bullpen. So I really rely on mainly a fastball-slider combination.

I've always thrown the ball with good velocity, but it seems like my fastball has gained a few miles per hour since I moved to the bullpen. That's been helpful. A couple miles per hour can help you get out of trouble once in a while.

Another adjustment going to the bullpen is not knowing when I'm going to pitch but still knowing I'm going to pitch. As a starter, you have your routine. You know what you do and when you do it in each of the four days you're not pitching, including going over scouting reports.

As a reliever, you have to be ready every day. That's what I like. I can have an impact on every game. I think it is boring sitting around and waiting for your next start.

This past weekend, we were in Los Angeles, where Chad Cordero, our regular closer, is rehabbing from surgery. I went down to his house, we had dinner and I had the chance to talk to him about the role, and he gave me a few words of wisdom. He said to treat closing like it is just another relief appearance. He said I needed to have a short memory and just go from there.

One thing I know is that I like being a reliever. I see myself as a reliever for the rest of my career.

Joel Hanrahan, a 27-year-old right-hander who is originally from Des Moines, Iowa, has a 5-3 record, a 3.88 ERA and 67 strikeouts in 60 1/3 innings for the Nationals this year. Manager Manny Acta named him the team's new closer on July 22.