2005-06-10 / Sports

Closer Doesn’t Get Chance To Finish In New York

By Denis Gorman

The Boston Red Sox may have their successor to Keith Foulke. And all it took was 25 teams passing up St. John’s closer Craig Hansen.

In a somewhat shocking development, Hansen slid down the 26th pick of Tuesday’s Major League Baseball draft, where he was drafted by the World Champion Red Sox.

“What I’m looking to do now is do whatever I can to help the Boston Red Sox, whether it’s starting, closing or setting up,” Hansen told reporters, after being notified that the Red Sox had selected him. “Any way I can help the Boston Red Sox. I have no preference. I just want to go out there and pitch.”

Should Hansen “go out there and pitch,” the Red Sox and their fans will be excited. The St. John’s career saves leader was thoroughly dominant this past season, finishing with 14 saves and a 1.68 ERA.

The junior’s legend grew at the College World Series. Starting the Red Storm’s first game, due to SJU starter Anthony Varvaro’s knee injury, Hansen threw seven innings, only allowing three runs in St. John’s 5-3 over Virginia.

After the game, St. John’s Head Coach Ed Blankmeyer raved about his closer-turned-starter. “When we got the bid, I said to Craig, ‘You may be getting that ball game one.’ He got an inkling, but he’s got the closer mentality. After two years as a closer, to pitch and start a game of this magnitude, what he did is just outstanding.”

Don’t think that the Red Sox didn’t notice. And don’t think that the Red Sox have any plans to turn their potential closer of the future into a starter.

“I just think now college sports, in general, has become such a big money event—even college baseball, it doesn’t get as much notoriety—but the pressure on those college coaches to win [is intense], and I think that’s why you see more college pitchers that have those specialty reliever roles such as Craig,” said Red Sox director of amateur scouting Jason McLeod.

“I’m sure he’s been asked that question [about starting] many times. He does have the three pitches that he throws for strikes, but I figure at St. John’s, they had a scenario there where they thought it was best for him, to help them win, to be in a closer’s role.”

Considering that scouts believe the Glen Cove, Long Island native can pitch at the Major League level right now, how could Hansen have slipped so far? Leading into the draft, Hansen was a consensus Top-10 pick.

It might have to do with Hansen’s choice of representation, super agent Scott Boras. Teams might have been scared off, considering that Stephen Drew and Jered Weaver, both Boras clients, sat out the entire year while negotiating with the Diamondbacks and Angels.

McLeod admitted that the Boras factor might have been a reason that Hansen dropped, but reiterated that the Sox are happy with their No. 26 pick.

“Getting to Craig’s selection, yes, of course, there are some teams that are somewhat scared off by Scott, and we look at it as when Craig was there at our pick, he was the highest-rated guy we had on the board and we wanted to try to acquire that talent. And that’s why we selected [him].

“We were surprised that he got to our pick and we were just happy he did. So that’s why we decided to select him.”

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