"Wow, this game is getting physical."
Monday night offered Joel Hanrahan his latest connection to the Boston sports scene, watching the Bruins' Stanley Cup finals game on television with his 3-month-old from their Dallas-area home. In recent days, the pair also had taken in some Red Sox games ("I think he might have said 'Papi' for the first time," the Sox pitcher said), although that practice had been hit or miss because of a spotty Wi-Fi connection.
Before the family hockey viewing party, however, Hanrahan's Monday had included another round of rehab on his recently surgically repaired right elbow (along with a few text messages from fellow Sox reliever Andrew Bailey.) Playing baseball no longer is part of the equation ... for now.
Other than spending time with Ryan, few of these lifestyle alterations have come easy.
Considering just a year before he was in the midst to pitching his way into his second All-Star Game -- and a few months ago he was living life as the Red Sox closer -- the uneasy existence is understandable. But when a doctor has taken the ligament out of your hamstring to put it in your pitching elbow, while fixing two other pieces of your arm in the process, it's understood lifestyle changes are going to be in the works.
"It's tough watching the games on TV. It's fun to watch the games, but it's also tough at the same time," Hanrahan said by phone. "You miss being around the guys and being around the big league ballparks. I try and watch them. It's tough not being there, but I'm trying to get this rehab kick-started and go from there."
For the first time in his professional life, putting on a baseball uniform isn't part of the daily routine.
The 31-year-old is in the early stages of rehabbing from three procedures executed on his right arm by Dr. James Andrews. What was going to be an eight-month recovery from flexor tendon surgery was extended somewhat when Dr. Andrews made the decision to also replace Hanrahan's elbow ligament, while removing a bone spur, as well.
"We didn't really have a set plan going into it," he said. "The talk beforehand was to fix the flexor tendon and if the UCL looked like it needed to be repaired we would fix it. The flexor was already an eight-month rehab, so if you added the Tommy John it wouldn't be that much longer. I gave them the go-ahead to do it if it needed to be done. When he went in there he said, 'Wow, we need to go ahead and fix this.' There was a bone spur on the backside as well that we took out. He took some ligament from my hamstring and put it in my elbow. So he did the double-whammy on me.
"I wasn't surprised. I had the feeling when he said the flexor tendon protected the UCL, I was ready that they would do both. I was ready for when I woke up that they would have done the Tommy John surgery as well. It was something I was prepared for. In the long run, the best thing for my career was to go ahead and get it done. It wasn't shocking at all."
Any reflection during his recent rehab has led to few regrets from the reliever.
Sure, there was that May 6 outing (his last of the season), in which he threw nine more pitches after initially feeling discomfort on a high and inside fastball to Minnesota's Brian Dozier.
"Looking back on it the thing that ultimately set it off was that pitch almost hit the guy from the Twins in the head. I think that's what really started it," he said. "I probably should have come out of the game. I stayed in and faced two or three more hitters. It probably wasn't the best decision. Looking back, it was probably done at that point."
But other than that heat-of-the-moment decision, Hanrahan doesn't know what he could have done different.
Sure, in hindsight, there probably were subtle signs, such as his inability to command his breaking pitches throughout spring training and the early part of the season. And the possibility that the elbow was put over the edge when he might have overcompensated somewhat upon injuring his hamstring during his second outing of the season. Still, there are still few regrets.
"When I got to spring training I felt great," he said. "I was throwing the ball hard. I wasn't having the best results but I felt my arm was fine, my velocity was good. I think the thing it kind of affected me the most was my breaking ball because you can rear back and pitch through anything throwing fastballs. But I think that had something to do with my command being off, and something was going on that I didn't feel it. Guys play every day when they're banged up. After that first day of spring training you never really feel 100 percent anyway. I just thought it was normal baseball stuff and nothing that gave me serious pain and couldn't pitch. But I was probably doing more damage to myself than I knew. But as a competitor that's part of the process of the game. I felt I could pitch no matter what."
Even before the pitch to Dozier, for a variety of now-uncovered reasons, Hanrahan never did hit his stride as the Red Sox closer. And what offered particular frustration was an inability to pitch well in front of his new fan base, having allowed at least one run in three of his four Fenway Park appearances, while not retiring either batter he faced in the other outing.
"It's definitely a tough thing to go through," he said. "Obviously getting traded in a deal that involved five people. … It's something where you always want to go out there when you're traded and show the fans you're good and the general manager was making the right move. Unfortunately for me, my best week was that first week on the road."
There is no doubt the frustration lingers with Hanrahan. He had made mention on a few occasions before his injury of a desire to show the Boston fans the reliever that the Red Sox prioritized acquiring in the offseason. But, with the pitcher becoming eligible for free agency following this season, the chance to leave that positive impression on Sox fans remains in doubt.
Hanrahan isn't ruling out a return. But with the kind of work, and uncertainty, that awaits, predicting his next landing spot is simply an impossibility at this point. He sees hope in cases like his buddy, 36-year-old Joe Beimel, who underwent Tommy John surgery almost exactly a year before Hanrahan and ended up signing a deal with the Braves. There are also the weekly text messages with Jason Motte, the Cardinals closer, who had ligament-replacement surgery in May, comparing and contrasting their respective recoveries.
Hanrahan knows he has a future. That's not a question. What it involves, and where it will evolve, is the only question.
"My wife and I will talk about it a little bit, but at this point it's way too early to talk about it," Hanrahan said regarding his plans following this season. "My main goal is to try and get the rehab going and get healthy. It's way too early in the ballgame to start thinking about that. Obviously I have a lot of things left to prove in Boston, so hopefully that could be a possibility. It's a wait and see.
"It will get to that point we'll figure out where we're at without the rehab, and if some team wants to talk about signing me up at the beginning of the year, or maybe they'll wait until I'm healthy. People are doing different things coming back from Tommy John. We'll see what the situations are. I haven't talked to my agent at all. I'm just going to have to see what's going to happen."