DETROIT (AP) — Joel Hanrahan is still working back from elbow surgery for a team eagerly awaiting his return.
The former All-Star agreed to a $1 million, one-year deal with the Detroit Tigers, who are hopeful the right-hander can bolster a shaky bullpen when he’s ready to pitch again in the majors. Hanrahan had Tommy John surgery last May after nine appearances for the Boston Red Sox in 2013.
He saved 76 games over the previous two seasons with the Pittsburgh Pirates.
“The one area we wanted to address the most with our ballclub has been our bullpen,” general manager Dave Dombrowski said after announcing the deal Friday.
The Tigers put Hanrahan on the 15-day disabled list, saying they will not rush him back to the majors. Hanrahan is expected to throw to hitters next week.
“Right now I feel good. My arm feels good, my body feels good,” Hanrahan said. “I’m able to throw a slider again, which I haven’t been able to do for a while.”
Hanrahan will earn $819,672 of his base salary, or 150-183rds given that he wasn’t on the roster until Friday. He can make $2.17 million in bonuses based on time on the active major league roster: $310,000 each for 15, 30, 45, 60, 75, 90 and 105 days.
“I’m not going to jump to the conclusion that he’s going to be 100 percent just because of the nature of the recovery from these surgeries, but the reports are his velocity has been good,” Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said. “I don’t know necessarily back to where he was pre-surgery, but it doesn’t mean he won’t get back.
“I do know he’s battle-tested in late innings,” Ausmus added. “He won’t be intimidated by a situation, which I think is very important, especially if you work your way into a pennant race by September.”
The 32-year-old said Tigers outfielder Torii Hunter — a friend of his — helped recruit him.
Detroit signed veteran Joe Nathan to be the closer in the offseason, but the bullpen was hurt by a season-ending injury to Bruce Rondon. Tigers relievers had a 5.37 ERA entering Friday night’s game at Kansas City.
The 6-foot-4 Hanrahan is hesitant to put any timetable on his return.
“I don’t think anybody’s really saying like, ‘You’ve got to be back on June 1,‘” Hanrahan said. “It’s kind of a situation where I haven’t faced a hitter yet, I haven’t bounced back from throwing in a game. It’s a situation that, it’ll come day by day.”
Ausmus also tried to temper expectations that Hanrahan will be able to help soon.
“You’re making the assumption that everything is going to go well, and I hope it does,” he said, “but there’s some T’s to cross and I’s to dot before I’m ready to say how great this is. But all things equal, I’d rather have him if he’s healthy than not have him.”
If Hanrahan is healthy and effective, he could end up being one of the team’s top right-handed options in the bullpen, along with Nathan. Al Alburquerque and Joba Chamberlain have shown the ability to strike hitters out, but they had ERAs of 4.50 and 4.35 entering Friday.
Hanrahan was an All-Star in 2011 and 2012, and in 2010 he struck out 100 hitters in 69 2-3 innings for the Pirates.
“When anybody comes back from injury that’s got an established big league history, we try to watch all of those guys throw whenever we can,” Dombrowski said. “We’re always looking to upgrade.”
AP Sports Writer Dave Skretta in Kansas City, Mo., contributed to this report.