TORONTO — Ryan Hanigan will have to deal with adjustments as he changes his positioning behind the plate to protect his surgically repaired throwing hand.
Hanigan, who was activated from the disabled list Thursday and was in the starting lineup for the series finale against the Blue Jays, is also hopeful he can help turn Rick Porcello’s season around after meeting with the embattled pitcher to go over video.
Hanigan feels his experience as a veteran catcher can help Porcello improve his approach and game planning. And that’s not a slap in the face to Blake Swihart, who is learning the hitters and the league as he goes along in his first season.
Asked if he can make a difference for Porcello, Hanigan said, “I certainly hope so. I had a good conversation with him today. Saw a lot of video. I have some ideas about some things, I don’t want to get too much into it but we talked today quite a bit. We’re gonna try a few things and see where we’re at.”
Hanigan pointed out that the last game he caught Porcello was April 29 vs. Toronto, a 4-1 Sox win in which Porcello went seven innings and allowed two hits and one run.
“He dominated the Blue Jays so I went back to that game and we talked about some things and we’ll see. He’s just in a little funk right now. The numbers he’s shown tells you what he can do. I’m sure it’s mentally tough for him and that’s the biggest task. His stuff is there. Just trying to get into a groove and feel like he’s that dominating again. Hopefully I can help him go in that direction. He’s talked to the pitching coach and worked on making adjustments so we’ll see where it goes,” Hanigan said.
Hanigan, who grew up in Andover, Mass., said he tried to keep tabs on the team while he was on his rehab assignment and has spent the last day or so watching video of all the pitchers.
When he looks at Porcello, he thinks the fixes are there to be made. And he doesn’t think the righthander is that far from getting back on track.
“Look at his stuff, a couple soft pitches up in the zone [Wednesday] that got hit,” Hanigan said. “We just have to be more consistent with his approach and what he’s trying to do with certain teams. The way he’s got to pitch to each team has to be a little different and he has some options. Maybe throw a few more four-seamers or a few more two-seamers in certain situations. He needs to attack a little bit more.”
Hanigan, 34, has seen similar funks from veteran pitchers before. He saw them in Cincinnati with Homer Bailey. He saw them in Tampa Bay last season.
“Guys go through funks all the time. It’s hard to go your entire career without going through a few bumps in the road,” Hanigan said. “At this point it’s not [Porcello’s] stuff — but just trying to game plan a little different and execute. It’s always about execution. I think we have to try a few things and get things going in a better direction. Hopefully things bounce his way a few times.”
Hanigan broke a finger on his throwing hand May 2 when Yankees first baseman Mark Teixeira was hit on the wrist by a pitch and the ball ricocheted and caught Hanigan’s exposed hand.
“I’ve changed a few things in terms of how I stand and how I protect my hand,” Hanigan said. “Obviously that’s the biggest work in progress. Truthfully it is a little bit of a change. I looked at a lot of video of myself over the years and video of a lot of catchers and how they protect their hands. There are ways to do it to feel comfortable. There are a few options, I’m trying to keep my hand right in here [crotch] like a lot of guys do. It feels different but I think I’ll be able to make it work.”
Hanigan said he hopes the adjustment becomes so seamless he doesn’t have to think about it.
“Did a lot of drills, have done it in games. I don’t want to have to think about it. That’s kind of where I’m at,” he said. “I’ll continue to ask [catching coach] Dana [LeVangie] and what they see and if I’m protecting it and making sure it’s out of the way but also making sure that I can throw and block. I feel pretty good. It’s a little bit different feel for me.
“I started in bullpens to get a feel. In rehab games I was pretty conscious of it. Toward the last part of rehab I thought it was more natural for me to keep it in one spot and not have to work so hard thinking about it.”
In any event, Hanigan is happy to be back. And Rick Porcello may be even happier to have him back.