ST. LOUIS — The last time Tommy Hanson tested his troublesome shoulder with throws on the mound, he lasted nine pitches before shutting it down because of pain.
Three weeks later, Hanson threw 20 pitches without incident Sunday, a significant step to what he and the Braves hope will be a return to the rotation before the season ends.
“I was nervous,” he said. “I didn’t know how it was going to go. It went really well. I’m happy with the way it went. I think from the last time I did this, I made a lot of improvement and am feeling a little bit better.”
Hanson has been on the disabled list since Aug. 7 with what was originally diagnosed as tendinitis and later as a small tear on the undersurface of his rotator cuff. Assuming the slumping Braves hold on to win a wild-card postseason berth, his presence – if healthy — would improve their chances of making it past the first round of the playoffs.
Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said Hanson would probably throw another bullpen session, perhaps Tuesday, then go to the team’s Instructional League in Florida to face some hitters. Barring setbacks, he could return to the rotation before the season ends.
“I think we almost have to [get him a regular-season start] for his and our sakes,” Gonzalez said. “You don’t want him starting one of those [playoff] games in his first game back.”
A. Gonzalez misses series
After initially saying Alex Gonzalez would miss the first two games of the weekend series at St. Louis, manager Fredi Gonzalez decided to rest the shortstop for the entire series. The veteran has a chronic back problem that flared up during the trip.
Jack Wilson played shortstop the entire series, going 3-for-12 and playing solid defense.
“Just giving Gonzo a breather,” said Fredi Gonzalez, who planned to have Gonzalez back in the lineup Monday against Florida. “He’s still a little sore. He’s progressed. Give him a breather and I think he should be good to go the next series.”
Chipper passes Yaz
Chipper Jones‘ homer Sunday was his 453rd, moving the 39-year-old Braves third baseman past Carl Yastrzemski into sole possession of 33rd place on the career list. Next on the list is Jose Canseco, with 462.
Jones has hit .361 with eight home runs and 17 RBIs in his past 28 games.