Hanson goes from Braves’ hot story to possibly just the ace

If Tommy Hanson can follow up on his 2009 rookie season, the Braves' rotation will be golden.

If pitcher Tommy Hanson can follow up on his 2009 rookie season, the Braves' starting rotation will be golden. (AP photo)

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — The night before he was scheduled to pitch against the Boston Red Sox last season, Tommy Hanson had a 104-degree fever and was feeling the cold tiles of the bathroom floor. In the words of Braves pitching coach Roger McDowell, “He looked like a stewed tomato.”

Hanson showed up at the stadium the next morning. He was still ill. He was dehydrated and somewhat wobbly. Then he threw six shutout innings and led the Braves past the Red Sox, 2-1.

“The great ones,” McDowell said, “are the ones who don’t miss starts. That’s the key to being a top-of-the-rotation guy. A lot of guys have talent. The great ones have a presence – a very self-assured presence. That combination is fairly rare.”

Funny thing about Tommy Hanson. Last spring, he was the flavor of the month. This spring, he often is spotted sitting alone in front of his locker, while most media members descend on the incoming Jason Heyward, or the outgoing Bobby Cox, or the somewhat-clinging-to-hope-for-redemption Chipper Jones.

Bottom line: spring training is about storylines, and Tommy Hanson isn’t one of them, which is kind of funny considering he may be a key to this season. The Braves aren’t likely to score a ton of runs this season. They’ll go as their starting pitching goes. If Hanson is remotely the guy he is projected to be in year two after a rookie season that saw him go 11-4 and a 2.89 ERA, the rotation will have few equals.

Yet he has somehow slipped out of the spotlight.

“It’s not the end of the world,” he said. “I think Heyward’s taking the pressure off everyone. It’s nice, actually.”

Last year, he was the young phenom. This year?

“Old news,” McDowell cracked.

“Have you guys even talked to him?” Bobby Cox asked.

No matter. Hanson and Jair Jurrjens are the John Smoltz and Tom Glavine of this generation’s pitching staff. They will be here for a while. (Cox named Derek Lowe his opening day starter Sunday; you would be safe to assume this is mostly about health and circumstances involving Jurrjens and Tim Hudson than the belief that Lowe is the ace of the rotation.)

We saw enough in year one to feel comfortable that there won’t be a nosedive in year two. We saw him “get crushed” – Hanson’s words – in his major league debut. He allowed seven runs (six earned) and three homers in six innings to Milwaukee.

“The biggest lesson I learned is those guys adjust the second time through the order,” Hanson said.

Talent gets you to the majors. Intelligence and work ethic take it from there.

Hanson won his next four starts, including the Yankees and Red Sox back to back. In a stretch of five starts, he allowed three earned runs in 30 innings. He had 116 strikeouts in 127 2/3 innings and posted the lowest ERA for a Braves’ rookie  starter in 66 years. He did this without the benefit of a change-up that he had much confidence in (something he is making a priority this spring). His ability to quickly adjust to situations on the mound, which is uncommon for a young pitcher, impressed coaches and teammates.

“He’s a perfectionist – he gets it,” catcher Brian McCann said. “If he leaves some pitches out of the zone, he’s not happy about it. That’s the difference for me. You get some guys who are called up and they’re happy to be here. Then you get guys who want to produce and excel.”

Some fans complain that he should’ve been here the first two months of the season. Fact is, we can’t know for certain he would’ve performed as well if he had been.

Hanson:  “I knew with them signing Glavine, it was pretty obvious I wasn’t going to make the team in training camp. But I wasn’t worried about it.”

He spent this offseason getting stronger. Workouts aimed at improving his shoulder and core have added five pounds of muscle. He’s up to 215 pounds, after dropping to as low as 205 in the summer. He’s working on his pitches, his approach, everything.

“I know I have to adjust some things if I’m going to get better,” he said.

If this keeps up, he’ll be big news again one day.

Earlier posts from  Braves’ camp:

How does Derek Lowe go from trade bait to opening day starter?

The next great Falcons’ GM: Brian McCann?

Bobby Cox’s reality: It’s not the end, it’s time to play

Braves’ Answerman: You asked, they answered

Are we expecting too much too soon from Jason Heyward?

Live from the parking lot! Jason Heyward’s landing zone

The maturing of Yunel Escobar

Eric Hinske and his $5,000 tattoo

♦ Derek Lowe looking forward after rough year and trade talk

Flying south, and taking your Braves’ questions with me

47 comments Add your comment

dawgsfan1990

February 28th, 2010
7:03 pm

dawgsfan1990

February 28th, 2010
7:04 pm

and by the way, Hanson rules. Go Bravos.

[...] cautious with Tim Hudson, even though he came back late last season from Tommy John surgery; 3) Tommy Hanson, another deserving pitcher, is young and Cox probably doesn’t want to put him in that [...]

Bill

February 28th, 2010
7:06 pm

The guy will go 18-8 with an ERA under 3:00 this year – bet the ranch.

RomeDawg

February 28th, 2010
7:09 pm

He’s the real deal! Look forward to watching him pitch this year.

"Chef" Tim Dix

February 28th, 2010
7:25 pm

3rd!

But, Big Red should be first as in opening day starter.

Bobby Cox

February 28th, 2010
7:29 pm

Hanson and Heyward are the only thing saving Frank Wrens but this year

Brian from Villa Rica

February 28th, 2010
7:31 pm

I like the 18 wins but will go with only 6 losses and an all-star selection

Sonny Clusters

February 28th, 2010
7:37 pm

“I know I have to adjust some things if I’m going to get better.” – Tommy Hanson

Clusters was always adjusting when we was playing ball. We would adjust our stance if the pitcher was getting us out and we needed to do something a little different. We would adjust our cup if we felt a pinch. We would adjust anything that needed adjusting. It’s good to see that Tommy Hanson adjusts because it’s only going to make him better.

NRBQ

February 28th, 2010
8:26 pm

Maybe when he’s 36, he’ll be good enough to start the season opener.

NRBQ

February 28th, 2010
8:27 pm

Unless we have someone older.

KC

February 28th, 2010
8:42 pm

Jeff Schultz, why aren’t the Braves going to score a ton of runs this year??

I don’t think they’re going to lead the league, but you seem to be suggesting that they’re at least slightly offensively challenged. How do you figure??

From June 28 of last year until the last week of the season (a span of 82 games), the Braves led the NL in runs scored. It was no fluke. It directly coincided with their unloading the dead weight in the lineup, mid-season, in favor of productive hitters.

The only difference between that lineup which, once it was repaired, was among the league’s best… and the 2010 lineup is that we’re swapping LaRoche/G.Anderson for Glaus/Heyward (in all likelihood). Do you see that as a big step down? Because that’s the only reason I can think of why you would think of this team as offense-deficient.

Tommy Hanson

February 28th, 2010
8:42 pm

D-Lowe should be a NY Yankee!!!

bruce

February 28th, 2010
8:57 pm

OK… if Lowe does make it back to his form… we have four aces. and with proper (for him) rest , second season and a fellow countryman, KK just might pitch like a number 3. We might have the best pitching staff in all of baseball barring injury, certainly more bullpen depth… very exciting.

Bill

February 28th, 2010
9:17 pm

Reid Adair

February 28th, 2010
11:18 pm

Tommy Hanson and Jair Jurrjens might be the “John Smoltz and Tom Glavine of this generation’s pitching staff,” but only in terms of performance. I don’t see Liberty Media – and especially Frank Wren – making the commitment to these two guys that John Schuerholz and company did Smoltz and Glavine.

JSS

March 1st, 2010
5:17 am

I heard the Sochi 2014 Mascot committee was doing a online search when they came across your AJC Banner shot… Bingo!!! Comrades, we’ve got a mascot!
My infamous “Bennie the Beaver” comparison has some competition now!
I just could not let that one slip by, it was juicer than a Charlie Leibrandt change-up! You are alright… Fear the Beaver!!!

GTFan1

March 1st, 2010
7:22 am

I believe the Braves rotation is the best. Here’s why. I wrote this before Lowe was named the starter. Go Braves!

http://thesportsdebates.com/2010/02/26/the-2010-spring-training-best-rotation-debate-%E2%80%93-braves-have-a-chance-every-night/

Worried

March 1st, 2010
7:29 am

I love Hanson’s stuff, but I am worried about his throwing motion. It looks like it is all arm, rather than getting power from the legs, etc. I just hope he can hold up.

[...] post:  Hanson goes from Braves' hot story to possibly just the ace | Jeff … Romantic Story of American BuddhismStumbling on My “Dream Story” in Malta (Circa [...]

Poorbrave

March 1st, 2010
10:32 am

Great job Jeff. Like the way you and DOB keep turning out the news. Maybe they will let you stay another week are two at ST.

Tailback U

March 1st, 2010
10:47 am

I share worried’s concern about the arm motion and the lack of
a fluid release . He has what I would describe as a buggy whip
motion on his release and worry that while he may a phenomenal
career it may be a very short one also. I just worry that his
elbow won’t hold up. But you got to love the kid’s makeup and
mound presence.

N

March 1st, 2010
11:36 am

KC: Great post on the offense. Its very interesting how the Atlanta media thinks we have the worse offense in the game, ignoring the fact that we had one of the best at the end of last year and our bench and outfield are even better now and Chipper should be too.

matt

March 1st, 2010
11:48 am

Jurrjens is a FA in like 2 years. Boras is his agent. We won’t be able to resign him.

Laroch avg more HR and RBI than Glaus over the past 5 years. AND Laroche is actually a first baseman, and a good one. Glaus has never played 1b. Laroche is younger and a lefty bat. Glaus is a downgrade, a significant one.

Watch and see

March 1st, 2010
11:52 am

Hanson will have significant arm problems and/or get rocked on a regular basis. if he’s healthy he won’t end up being a superstar. His motion puts too much stress on his elbow, he shows the ball too early and his FB is flatter than Debra Messing.

Hoops Dawg

March 1st, 2010
12:07 pm

The first time I saw Hanson on TV, I cringed at that delivery, looking like it was a rotator cuff injury waiting to happen. I sure hope that I am wrong because this kid has both the attitude and the stuff to make a very significant impact on major league baseball–just get him an adequate number of runs Bravos.

Dawg Fud

March 1st, 2010
12:22 pm

i am really, really excited about this Braves team

Dayman

March 1st, 2010
1:10 pm

Derek Lowe being opening day starter is a complete joke with this staff.

Melissa

March 1st, 2010
1:26 pm

Hanson will be a one-year flash-in-the-pan at best. Then the Braves will be stuck with a huge contract while he struggles to come back in the minors. Another Steve Avery or even more disappointing.

Mr. Right

March 1st, 2010
1:55 pm

Melissa: There is no way you can possible be right.

If he’s only a one year flash in the pan, then that means that either this past year was the flash, or next year would be the flash, then he’d be injured/crap. But IF that happened, then he would not get a huge deal from the braves. He’s playing on his cheap/young contract years now, and will be for awhile. If you’re going to troll, at least be more intelligent about it.

joseph

March 1st, 2010
2:12 pm

Is the glass is half full or empty? Knowone knows how Hanson will turn out in the long run, but people like Melissa,Watch and see, and Bill(81-81) should become yankee fans! I love these blogs so everyone can share their opinion, but the great thing about baseball is it’s a long season and had their been blogs around before the 91 season there would have been alot of bad mouthing that team as well. Health is always a concern in MLB and if St Louis loses Pujols or New York loses Rivera then their seasons will change from the current projections. All is in the fun of it! Lets see some baseball!

rich mckay

March 1st, 2010
2:52 pm

Melissa: Not sure I can see the comparison between Avery and Hanson.
Steve Avery went 3-11 in 21 starts with a 5.64 era his rookie year and he didnt have an era under 3.00 until his fourth season.
Hanson went 11-4 in 21 starts with a 2.89 era in his rookie year.

Bubbly

March 1st, 2010
3:50 pm

If he don’t put on some weight before long we can start calling him stringbean. He looks absolutly frail in that pic.

The Grinch

March 1st, 2010
5:48 pm

Wow, you people don’t even like Tommy Hanson. Unbelievable. There are 31 other teams that would kill for him, and we’ve got him under control for peanuts for the next few years. What exactly WOULD make you morons happy?

As for Glaus being a significant downgrade from LaRoche; let’s see what he looks like game time first. I just watched him in BP at Orlando last week and he looked pretty good. If he’s 85 percent of himself this season he’d be better than Adam and considerably cheaper.

Coach (2011 or Bust)

March 1st, 2010
6:13 pm

I’ll second what KC said, scoring runs won’t be a problem. The 2009 Braves averaged just over five runs per game in the second half of their season. If healthy (knock on wood) this 2010 squad will score too. But the real key to winning more than 86 games this season is run prevention, as in catching the damn ball better.

On paper they look better defensively….on paper. The same can be said for the offense.

If there is one single glaring deficiency is is the lack of team speed. It’s a handicap and both Cox and Wren are to blame. Rafael Furcal led the team with 46 stolen bases back in 2005, nobody has swiped more than 17 since. In fact, from 2006-2009 the Braves 232 stolen base totals rank DEAD LAST among all thirty major league teams ( they were 29th last season with 58 SB’s).

There is a word for this, it’s called incompetence and I for one am happy as hell that Bobby Cox is retiring even if it’s ten years too late.

Coach (2011 or Bust)

March 1st, 2010
6:31 pm

Matt, Jair Jurrjens won’t hit free agency until after the 2013 season. He’s a Braves for at least another four years. Coincidently, Yunel Escobar’s current status is the same.

Rich Clary

March 1st, 2010
6:58 pm

I’m with ya, Grinch. 85% of Glaus will be better than LaRoach.

Coach (2011 or Bust)

March 1st, 2010
7:43 pm

Right, exactly concerning Troy Glaus. However, the silver lining is that if Chipper doesn’t play up to his own standards and retires…….Glaus can slide over to third base, Freddie Freeman could conceivably take over at first base, and the thirteen million in contract money (Chipper’s contract) can be applied toward Glaus or other team needs.

Overall it’s smart a smart move on the part of Frank Wren and he deserves credit for acquiring Troy Glaus.

GovClintonTyree

March 1st, 2010
8:42 pm

I’m with you, Grinch. Feeling good about Glaus. “A calculated gamble”, said Frank. Right. I think it comes up sevens.

Delbert D.

March 1st, 2010
9:49 pm

The Braves can re-sign Jurrjens with the money freed up by the Jones retirement.

MitchC

March 1st, 2010
10:37 pm

Hopefully, Hanson can be like Dwight Gooden was in his second year, and really dominate the scene, without, of course, having the troubles that plagued Gooden’s later career, and made him little more than a mediocre pitcher overall.

You always have to worry about the dreaded “Sophomore Slump”, but, I see no reason why Hanson wont win 15 to 17 games, with a sub 3 ERA. If he can do that, Hudson can rebound from TJ surgery, and Lowe has a comeback year, this team will be pretty tough to beat assuming JJ’s arm problems arent too serious.

woodie

March 1st, 2010
11:03 pm

Same old Bobby Cox- Going with Derek Lowe on opening day instead of one of the studs.

The Grinch

March 1st, 2010
11:28 pm

MitchC, I’ve met Hanson and I don’t see him snorting the whole white line from home to 1st like Doc.

Woddie, JJ’s still got an inflamed shoulder. Hudson’s coming back from major surgery. Making Hanson the opening day starter when he hasn’t even pitched a full year yet puts a whole lot of unneeded pressure on him. Which leaves Lowe and KK. Lowe may have had a mediocre (by his standards) year last year but still won 15 games and pitched 8 strong innings in last years opener (don’t forget, he was the WS MVP for the Red Sox as recently as 2007). Who would you start, Medlin?

don p

March 7th, 2010
12:51 pm

Bobby Cox is the best manager the braves have ever or ever have. All you people with the negative comments about him need to think about that fact and appreciate him while we have him here. Thank the Time Warner and our current corporation for all the wasted years we have experienced with the penny penching. The braves should have sold to Blank when they had the chance. If Ted had the Braves all these years we wood have more Championships.Thanks Bobby we love ya.

joop

March 12th, 2010
2:51 pm

Yeah, nobody’s writing stories about Hanson. Oh, wait a minute….

bunch o' braves

March 12th, 2010
5:23 pm

Seriously. Why write a blog about a nobody. Really Jeff? Obviously YOU likes Tommy. What a waste of time. Hanson didn’t LOOK like a stewed tomato, he IS one. He sooo overrated, he just wants his face in town. Nobody cares about 1 player that really isn’t that good, they care about the team. If I were Bobby Cox, I would NOT put him on the mound much. Maybe once and a while. But not often.

[...] team also has a new ace in town in Tommy Hanson, who doesn’t even have a full season under his [...]