The kid in Ryan Hanigan enjoyed Monday, when he participated in a winning baseball game and, because he’s the catcher, got to play in the mud during a dreary, drizzly morning matinee.
The 34-year-old in Hanigan might have preferred to stay where it was warm and dry, though, since Monday’s 7-1 rain-shortened Patriots Day win over Baltimore concluded a series that called on the Red Sox catcher to make physical sacrifices multiple times. He took a few more balls off his body Monday while catching — mostly foul tips — and also was hit by pitches in consecutive at-bats.
When he wasn’t getting dinged and bruised, Hanigan was adding a single and scoring two runs as the Sox finished a seven-game homestand on a positive note before flying to Florida to face the Tampa Bay Rays.
“Being a catcher, you’ve got to get used to that. You’re gonna get hit, you get bruised up, you’re not always going to feel good. But you can always help your team, you can always help your pitcher calling a game,” Hanigan said. “It wasn’t too bad today. I got hit a couple times, but nothing too serious. The [right] hand the other day, a little sore but [manager John Farrell] gave me a day [off] yesterday, I felt pretty good today, and went back at it.”
Hanigan took a ball off his throwing hand while catching during Saturday’s loss, but stayed in the game. That came a day after a deflection caught him square on the elbow. Farrell gave his man a break Sunday, but he was back in the lineup Monday, hitting ninth.
“He’s fine,” Farrell said. “With the position comes some bumps and bruises. A couple of foul tips, hit by a pitch a couple times today, but he’s getting through it.”
Hanigan has been pressed into service more than expected with the spring training elbow injury to expected starter Christian Vazquez. That gave, at least for now, the regular starting job to Hanigan. He made his big league debut in 2007 and spent his first seven seasons with Cincinnati before joining Tampa Bay last year.
The Red Sox acquired Hanigan on Dec. 20 in a trade with San Diego, bringing home an Andover High School graduate who grew up rooting for Boston and knows all about the significance of Patriots Day.
“It’s a special day for Massachusetts, big event with the marathon, obviously the history of the marathon the last couple years, so I know everyone takes pride in this day,” Hanigan said. “It helps everyone when the Sox get a win.”
Hanigan did his part. He went 1 for 1 in the game, which was called in the middle of the seventh inning after a 1-hour- 42-minute rain delay with the Sox leading, 7-1. His third-inning single was the only hit when the Sox sent 10 batters to the plate and scored four times, aided by two Orioles errors and four walks.
By reaching safely three times, Hanigan raised his on-base percentage to .400, second on the team behind only Brock Holt’s .481. Hanigan might only be hitting .160 (4 for 25), but he’s walked eight times, with the same number of strikeouts. His value on offense isn’t limited to batting average.
“Getting base runners for this team is big, with this offense we have,” Hanigan said. “If I get on base, it’s going to help our other guys.”
Defense is his strong suit, however, which puts him in the line of fire, like all catchers. Protective gear helps, but doesn’t cover every square inch, and over the course of a long season, there are stretches where the ball simply seems to find a catcher, time and time again.
Hanigan, who was hit on the left knee by Wei-Yin Chen in the fourth inning, then grazed by Jason Garcia in the sixth, seems to be going through one of those stretches.
“I’ve caught some games in my career, and it just happens. You just hope it’s something that doesn’t square you up too much,” Hanigan said. “I don’t want to get hit on the hand again, that’s no good. I can take some bruises on the thighs and stuff, so just keep at it, get in the ice tub. These trainers take care of me.”
After getting hit by a pitch the second time — and perhaps still smarting from getting drilled on the knee two innings earlier, or taking tipped balls recently off his feet, arms, elbows, and shoulders — Hanigan scored all the way from first on a double down the left-field line by Dustin Pedroia. The catcher showed off a little speed, then raved about it after the game, tongue firmly planted in cheek.
“I was just letting them know that was the second time I’ve scored from first when the ball didn’t get to the wall. Just sayin’.”