Rain disrupts Hanson’s long-awaited return

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – Tommy Hanson waited seven months to pitch again in a game, and he’ll wait a little longer to pitch in dry weather and get through the second inning.

The right-hander was charged with two hits, three runs (two earned) and one walk and left without recording an out in the second inning of the Braves’ split-squad game against Toronto at Champion Stadium.

“Obviously my command was a little bit off, but my body felt really good and I made some good pitches,” said Hanson, who was replaced during a 77-minute rain delay in the top of the second inning, shortly after giving up a two-run homer by Jeff Mathis.

The game was called with the Braves trailing 3-1 in the bottom the second, during the third rain delay of the day. In their other split-squad game against the Blue Jays at Dunedin, the Braves lost 9-5 to drop their spring-training record to a majors-worst 1-9.

“At times I just wasn’t as consistent as I need to be,” said Hanson, pitching for the first time since Aug. 6 and using his revamped delivery for the first time in a game situation. “It’s my first game and my body felt good, so that was a key for me.”

The 6-foot-6 redhead missed the final eight weeks of the 2011 season with an undersurface rotator cuff tear in his pitching shoulder, then missed the first 10 days of spring training recovering from a concussion he got in a one-car accident while driving to the ballpark on the morning of the first workout in Florida.

Hanson changed his delivery over the winter, cleaning up some of the pause and funky arm action in an effort to reduce the stress on his elbow and shoulder.

“It was a tough day to pitch,” Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. “Of all the pitches he threw, I think he only had a handful where the ball was actually dry. So just getting him out there was good enough. We won’t worry about the boxscore.”

Hanson still has a slight pause at the beginning of his throwing motion from his windup, but not the radical hitch he had previously, when he’d pause at shoulder level and sling the ball without utilizing his legs for power.

One byproduct of the shortened motion is a quicker time to the plate from his stretch delivery when runners are on base. Hanson allowed more stolen bases (63) in the past two seasons than any major league pitcher.

Gonzalez said it was 1.35-1.4 seconds to the plate when Hanson pitched from the stretch Sunday, compared to an alarmingly slow 1.7-1.8 previously.

“You eliminate the mediocre base stealers when you go 1.3-1.4,” Gonzalez said. “The guys like [Jose] Reyes and Michael Bourn, top-tier base stealers, that time is still a go for them. But you eliminate a lot of the average baserunners.”

Catcher David Ross agreed it was difficult to assess much else about Hanson’s performance because of rain. The game was delayed 59 minutes before the first pitch, and rain resumed in the first inning and worsened in the second.

“You can’t really get a good judge [from the game] in that weather, but his bullpen was really good,” Ross said. “Slider was sharp, fastball was jumping out of his hand. I saw on the radar gun where he hit 91 [mph] early. I don’t look at that much, but…

“I called a lot of fastballs because you can’t even grip a slider, much less throw it with some conviction [when it’s that wet],” Ross said. “He looked good in the bullpen [warming up, when it wasn’t raining]. It’s hard to perform in those kind of conditions.”

Several scouts watching the game said they were surprised by how little difference there was in Hanson’s windup, after reading about changes he’d made in his delivery.

Asked about the changes in Hanson’s mechanics, Ross said it was more noticeable from the stretch than the windup.

“I told him when that one guy got on and he threw that first-pitch fastball, that got on me and the hitter quick,” Ross said. “But I don’t see a whole lot of difference in his [full windup] delivery, in his arm motion and things like that. Which is good. It didn’t seem to affect the pitches. That’s my main concern.”

Despite the earlier than planned exit and the runs allowed, Hanson said he was thrilled just to be back pitching in a game. The rain was even enjoyable in a way.

“I was getting balls that were soaking wet, the mound was drenched,” he said. “But it was still fun. When I was out there I was just laughing about it because I was glad to be out there on the mound. It was fun to compete again.

“It was one of those conditions where I didn’t really care what happened because it didn’t matter. It was almost like I was a little kid just playing in the rain again. It was definitely fun to be back out there.”

Last season Hanson went 10-4 with a 2.44 ERA and .190 opponents’ average in 17 starts before the All-Star break. Then the shoulder went from merely nagging to aching, and he was 1-3 with an 8.10 ERA in five starts after the break.

He didn’t pitch again after Aug. 6.

He was diagnosed with a small rotator cuff tear in late August, an injury that many veteran pitchers develop through normal wear and tear. Surgery can usually be avoided unless the tear worsens.

Hanson tried a few times to get back in the rotation late in the season, but the pain returned each time when he got back on the mound and ramped up the intensity of his throwing sessions.

When the season ended he took measures to avoid worsening damage, beginning with a rigorous conditioning program designed to strengthen the back and shoulder muscles.

It was during a month-long stint working out at Braves training camp in Florida when Hanson listened to physical therapist Troy Jones’ suggestion that he tweak his pitching mechanics in order to preserve his health.

57 comments Add your comment

bruce

March 11th, 2012
4:44 pm

glad he is back on the mound in competition, let the results come when they do!

archie

March 11th, 2012
4:45 pm

It’s going to be a long season.

Weaseal

March 11th, 2012
4:49 pm

When will it be April -Our Braves need out of this March Madness

phoo

March 11th, 2012
4:53 pm

How was Hanson’s hitting? We are going to need it.

Felix

March 11th, 2012
4:54 pm

And the great choke still continues…………

Steve

March 11th, 2012
4:57 pm

Yes Felix, what a choke this is for the Braves. Spring Training counts for so much! What a moron.

Tampa Fan

March 11th, 2012
4:58 pm

Long season indeed Archie. Shoulder problems at his age not a good sign at all. Expect Hanson and JJ to continue to be plagued by injuries. And the hitting, well it’s just sad.

Steve

March 11th, 2012
5:02 pm

2011 Spring Training Records.

St. Louis – World Champs – 14 – 16
Texas – 13-16
Boston 14 – 19
NY Yankees – 13-15

IT MEANS NOTHING people. Minnesota and Kansas City were terrbile last year and were 20-12 and 20-10 in Spring Training.

Tampa Gator

March 11th, 2012
5:05 pm

I was at the game in Dunedin today.

1. Very impressed with Betencourt behind the plate…and he appreared to have a quick bat (3 hits)
2. Impressed with the new kid (have no idea how to spell his Eastern European name). He hit the ball hard…but made a poor play and decision at third that cost a run.
3. Not impressed with the new SS. Appeared to have limited range, weak arm, poor decision making…and not very impressive at the plate. This a bad combination for a rookie SS in the major leagues. I hope the Braves have a backup plan.
4. Impressed with Gillerman (or whatever his name is)….Toranto’s hitters were off balance…and he showed a lot of poise with men in scoring position in the first inning.
5. Uggla crushed a ball two times in a row….one a long, foul HR…and then a ripped ball off the left field wall….for a single. Both balls were just…..CRUSHED.

64 year Braves fan

March 11th, 2012
5:06 pm

This team couldn’t beat Double A teams. Time to clean house.

Tampa Gator

March 11th, 2012
5:07 pm

…..also….concerned about McCann. 0-3 and his bat threw the zone was slow. Is he still hurt?

Steve

March 11th, 2012
5:08 pm

64 year Braves fan = Another moron.

Tampa Gator

March 11th, 2012
5:10 pm

Most of the team that did play against the Jays today in Dunedin were AA and AAA type players….or should be….including Matt Diaz…..why is he still on this team? Also….is there any hope that Jason Heyward is not a flash in the pan? He looks\ed terrible at the plate….and played poorly in CF as well.

its bad

March 11th, 2012
5:15 pm

Unless I missed something, it is spring training for all these teams that are beating the crap out of the braves.
The idea that the braves will suddenly turn it on and compete at a new level AND THE OTHER TEAMS WILL STAY AT A SPRING TRAINING LEVEL is idiotic.
The braves may be better when the season starts, but so will everyone else.

Middle of the division team at best.

Steve

March 11th, 2012
5:19 pm

its bad, then don’t watch this season. Quit reading these articles and posting comments if they are so bad.

bostonbravo

March 11th, 2012
5:30 pm

hope Huddy back by 5/1…if just for his hitting!

does not look good.

Mets R Best

March 11th, 2012
5:35 pm

Man Braves fans, your team really stinks.

Mister Frisky

March 11th, 2012
6:02 pm

Thank you God for the rain.Spared us morons and idiots from another sweep.

Ken Oberkfell

March 11th, 2012
6:41 pm

I just feel like in years past, we usually won our fair share of spring training games and had a little momentum heading into Opening Day. You can say Spring Training doesn’t matter, but if our O keeps getting shut down by minor league quality pitching, I’d say that’s something to be worried about. Especially if the trend continues. Right now, we’ve picked up right where we left off last September. I imagine we’ll put up a few Ws here before long. I hope.

MRSFREEMAN

March 11th, 2012
7:14 pm

LOOK “HOMERS”, YOU CAN GET EXCITED WHEN THE SEASON STARTS…THE FIRST MONTH THE BRAVES PLAY THE TWO WORST TEAMS IN NAT’L LEAGUE,,,,,HOUSTON AND THE METS….THAT WILL GET YOU ALL FIRED UP……..WHEW….

Bluedad

March 11th, 2012
7:53 pm

My guess is that Fredi will compensate for the poor hitting by pitching Venters and Kimbrel twice a day if he is allowed. He almost ruined them last year. Cox was a great manager and instilled confidence — Fredi has a LOT to prove after last year and spring may be for practice but the Bravos aren’t looking too sharp.

BravesfaninWis

March 11th, 2012
8:45 pm

Steve,

Do everyone a favor and shut up. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, so let it be. Just because you are a homer doesn’t mean that everyone has to follow suit. People can be a fan of this team and call them out at the same time for being a crappy team. If everyone agreed with one another this would be one boring ass world now wouldn’t it? Your every post on here is calling other people out, so what does that make you? Enough said.

Greg Mendel

March 11th, 2012
9:06 pm

Rain. I hadn’t thought of that. Gotta tip your hat to percipitation. Enough rainouts, and we’ll get to the Series.

Seriously, really, I know it’s Spring Training. They should train, and maybe they’ll have a good season, which is all I ask. But show me something positive. Anything. Anything that suggests the coming season will be any better than the last one. Can they hit? Will they ever hit? I think that’s the question on most fans minds, and for good reason. Consistent hitting has been absent for years.

Call me a whiner, if you want. But while I’m whining — hit the freaking ball!

Bob the Blogger

March 11th, 2012
10:48 pm

I was at the game today. It was was raining pretty hard at times, the wind was blowing, and the mound was soaked. Hanson actually looked good in the first inning, but the second inning the rain was really coming down. He was slinging water off of his hand, and even appeared to slip. I wouldn’t judge his new delivery by this game. I’m just glad he didn’t get hurt.

bvillebaron

March 12th, 2012
8:10 am

Actually BravesfaninWis:

I agree with Steve and think that you and the rest of the losers who put any stock in meaningless spring training games are the ones who should shut up!

anonymous

March 12th, 2012
9:12 am

Steve, you are the moron, just because someone has a different oponion from you does not mean they are a moron or idiot. If you don’t like their oponion just scroll on down until you find someone you agree with.

Samantha

March 12th, 2012
9:19 am

Good morning everyone, I am back. anonymous I completely agree with you.

Ralph

March 12th, 2012
9:20 am

I agree with anonymous, I’m afraid to post because I don’t want some idiot like Steve calling me a moron.

Samantha

March 12th, 2012
9:26 am

I wont call names Ralph. I am a friend and looking to make more. You can talk to me about anything.

Ralph

March 12th, 2012
9:27 am

Why is it Fredi that the rain doesn’t help us score a lot of runs off the oposing pitcher and why doesen’t the wind blow our fly balls over the fence????????????????????????????

Ralph

March 12th, 2012
9:28 am

Thank you Sam, I will remember that.

Ralph

March 12th, 2012
9:32 am

Samantha

I would like to hear you talk some baseball, tell us what you think. It doesn’t matter if its positive or negative. It’s hard not to be negative right now because there isn’t much to be positive about.

Samantha

March 12th, 2012
9:35 am

You are welcome Ralph, You can ask me anything about me or the team but you have ask before 7pm because I work nites. I would like to ask location and age?

Ralph

March 12th, 2012
9:40 am

Sam,

I’m way too old for you, unless you like older men that is, guess thats why I say talk baseball.

Samantha

March 12th, 2012
9:41 am

My honest opinion is everything is going to be ok. They are just struggling right now and they will put it together for a very good year

Samantha

March 12th, 2012
9:45 am

How old do you think I am? Also what is your location? Go braves.

Ralph

March 12th, 2012
9:46 am

My location is “Just over the hill” from you.

Samantha

March 12th, 2012
9:47 am

Where am I ?

Samantha

March 12th, 2012
9:53 am

OK I am sorry I made you mad. JUst trying to be friendly.

Ralph

March 12th, 2012
9:57 am

Right now i’m in Boquete Panama.

Samantha

March 12th, 2012
11:05 am

Wow nice place. I am in Gwinnett. Work in Atlanta. 19yrs old. I am definitely getting ready for a WS this year in Atlanta with a championship. Go Braves.

Ralph

March 12th, 2012
11:22 am

Gwinnette is nice, I use to own a Nite Club in Gainsville. just north of you.

Samantha

March 12th, 2012
11:27 am

I work in a nite club. Do you agree with my predictions on ther Braves?

Ralph

March 12th, 2012
11:34 am

No I think the Braves will do no better than 3rd place this year but I love them anyway.

Samantha

March 12th, 2012
11:42 am

Why do you say that Ralph? I know they are having problems right now,but i really think they will put it all together in the next month and have a super year. Just my honest opinion. Are you military stationed in Panama?

Ralph

March 12th, 2012
11:50 am

There hasn’t been any US military presence in Panama since we turned control of the Canal to the panamaians in 2000.

Samantha

March 12th, 2012
11:57 am

Sorry I didnot know. You must be a contractor then. Are you coming home soon where you can go see braves play? I have already got my ticket for the first day game.

I remember 95, even though i was 5

March 12th, 2012
12:28 pm

Yes! This is what I love about my braves. You get to see how the questions of spring traini.g get answered over the first couple months. I am totally looking forward to games this summer! And now that I can legally have a beer they drop the prices! It’s gonna be a great summer! Here’s to our bravos! Give them 40 or 50 games to figure it out yall.

Samantha

March 12th, 2012
12:29 pm

Apparently I have upset you again. I was just trying to know you better. If it is none of my business then just tell me. It is not hard to figure out what i do so i was just curious about you. But if you do not want to talk to me any more that is OK. Just tell me and I will go away.

Samantha

March 12th, 2012
12:39 pm

WOW remember A good fresh of air makes everyone feel better. Welcome Braves fan.

phil

March 12th, 2012
12:49 pm

Hanson was whining about all the balls being wet….

I swear, what a bunch of babies we pull for.

Samantha

March 12th, 2012
1:04 pm

Hey Remember, If you were born in 90. You are not much older than me.

nelson

March 12th, 2012
5:01 pm

braves 1-10 geez !! :(

Samantha

March 12th, 2012
5:06 pm

You dont have to be so sad. Cheer up it cant get any worse.

Samantha

March 12th, 2012
10:33 pm

I remember 95, even though i was 5

March 13th, 2012
1:13 am

Yup I wish I was older sometimes though! All I remember from game six was being really really cold and then the whole place going nuts! It branded me a braves fan for life miss Sam lol

Kathy

March 31st, 2012
7:09 pm

Do you mind if I quote this article?

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