Hanson not buying into talk of decline, looks to win spot

Tommy Hanson will come off the disabled list and start Friday against the Dodgers. (Hyosub Shin/AJC)

Tommy Hanson will be activated and start Friday against the Dodgers. (Hyosub Shin/AJC)

(Hi folks. I’m ready to live blog off tonight’s Braves game against San Diego. It’s Tim Hudson vs. Clayton Richard. Following is a column I’ve written on Tommy Hanson, who will come off the disabled list after a back injury to start Friday’s game against Los Angeles. Hanson is in the unexpected position of trying to win a spot in the Braves’ five-man rotation down the stretch. The team currently is going with six pitchers.)


If there is one jolting reality about the blur surrounding the Braves’ pitching rotation these days, it’s this: Tommy Hanson is not a clear-cut No. 1. Or 2. Or 3.

This doesn’t mean Hanson is going to struggle over the next two weeks. It certainly doesn’t mean he’s not going to reaffirm his value to the Braves over time, nor that he isn’t destined to have a great career, presumably in Atlanta.

But there are doubts. There was the shoulder injury last year. The back pain this year. There’s the fastball of declining velocity. There’s the fact that he has gone 5 1/3, 4, 5 and 5 innings in his past four starts, and despite a 12-5 record, is carrying the highest ERA (4.29) and opponents’ batting average (.267) of his career.

It doesn’t take long for people to start wondering whether a guy will be, you know, what he is supposed to be. About as long as it takes to type a Tweet?

“I try not to worry about it,” Hanson said Tuesday, three days before he will be activated from the disabled list for Friday’s start against the Los Angeles Dodgers. “I just worry about myself, keep trying to get better, keep trying to keep my body healthy to perform. Anything after that, there’s no need for me to worry about it because people will say what they’re going to say, and they’re going to have doubts and think that there’s something wrong with me, and they don’t know.”

That said, if the Braves head into the home stretch of a division race without Hanson as a starter, it’s not a good sign for either the team or the player. Hanson is the Braves’ only perceived power pitcher (although not as much now). It wasn’t long ago he was considered the next great thing. Baseball America named him the organization’s No. 1 prospect and baseball’s fourth-best prospect in 2009.

Hanson was called up midway through that season. The Braves drop-kicked franchise legend Tom Glavine into retirement to make room for him on the roster. Talk about symbolism.

Hanson made 21 starts the reason of the season and went 11-4 with a 2.89 ERA. He struck out 116 in 127 2/3 innings. We bowed.

But the blast off has been limited. In 2010, Hanson pitched with a voodoo doll on his shoulder, going only 10-11, largely because of poor run support (at one point he allowed one or zero runs in five consecutive starts, going 0-2 with three decisions). Last season he was great before the All-Star break (10-4, 2.44), a train wreck after (1-3, 8.10). He eventually was shut down because of shoulder tendinitis.

He recovered before spring training. But his car went on the disabled listed when he crashed it on the way to Disney. Hanson suffered a minor concussion. The Infiniti suffered about $8,000 in damage. Then came the season, which started well but has since tailed off, primarily because of the lost velocity.

The Braves put Hanson on the disabled list, which he was OK with, and then sent him to Gwinnett, which he was not completely OK with. Manager Fredi Gonzalez joked that Hanson was “grumpy” when he delivered the news and the pitcher uttered an obscenity at him and pitching coach Roger McDowell.

Hanson confirmed as much Tuesday (while smiling).

“I wasn’t mad — I just wasn’t expecting that,” he said. “I was expecting to throw in the bullpen the next day. I guess I was more shocked than anything. I was laughing when I said it but I guess I used a curse word. I called him a curse word.”

Hanson said, in retrospect, the Gwinnett start the other night was a good thing. He needed the work before his first Braves start Friday night.

Catcher Brian McCann believes Hanson has been effective this season despite the lost speed, “Obviously he’s not throwing 95 any more. But right now he’s learned how to win with a fastball at 90, a backdoor cutter, a slider down and in.”

Is that enough?

When asked if he’s feeling more pressure to perform and become a member of the rotation, Hanson said, “I just feel like I need to do what I’ve always done and try to help my team win. What happens after that, you know, I’ll do my best and if  it doesn’t work out, we’ll go from there.”

By Jeff Schultz

Some of my earlier typings (no charge)

Countdown: Mizzou’s paranoia, Mora’s rant and Auburn problems

Kris Medlen and the benefits of a six-man rotation (video and blog)

Danny Ferry made a pitch for Dwight Howard but Magic said no


140 comments Add your comment

TheOnlyBravesFan

August 14th, 2012
7:08 pm

1st… Tommy isn’t the same guy anymore. He might be gone at season’s end. And I wouldn’t mind it one bit.

Jeff Schultz

August 14th, 2012
7:11 pm

Jeff Schultz

August 14th, 2012
7:12 pm

Damn. I never win.

JJ

August 14th, 2012
7:15 pm

Hanson’s biggest problem is that he believes he’s a strikeout pitcher in the mold of a Verlander or Halladay. I couldn’t even count the number of times this year that he’s started a hitter pumping the strike zone with fastballs that get him ahead, then he starts throwing that 55 foot curveball and next thing you know its 3-2. The next pitch either gets tatooed or he ends up walking the guy. If he’d just rely on location to get people out on balls in play rather than trying to rack up 300 K’s a year, he might be OK. What I can’t figure out is why neither he or McDowell realize any of this.

TheOnlyBravesFan

August 14th, 2012
7:15 pm

Schultz: Do you think that the Hanson is likely the guy to stay in rotation when we go back to 5-man?

Jeff Schultz

August 14th, 2012
7:17 pm

TheOnlyBravesFan — Honestly, I have no feel for it. Only know that if Medlen continues to pitch like he has been, it’s going to be hard to take him out of the rotation.

Jeff Schultz

August 14th, 2012
7:22 pm

Bourn starts things with a triple. He came into game ranked 6th in majors with 140 hits. (See. Sometimes I read the press notes.)

The Grinch

August 14th, 2012
7:23 pm

I like Hanson’s attitude, and I hope he proves everyone wrong. That said, I don’t have a great deal of faith in it happening.

"Chef" Tim Dix

August 14th, 2012
7:24 pm

And with that triple Scott Boras told his wife to pick anyone of the Hawaiian islands to own.

"Chef" Tim Dix

August 14th, 2012
7:27 pm

Meds is clearly in the rotation of a short series…for now

Jeff Schultz

August 14th, 2012
7:28 pm

The Grinch — Just because you said that, let me add that he is truly one of the great guys in the clubhouse.

Dawg Haus

August 14th, 2012
7:28 pm

I hate seeing Hanson struggle, but there’s something going on with him. I hope it can be fixed, but I’d rather him do the work in Gwinnett. This is no time to play around in the division.

Jeff Schultz

August 14th, 2012
7:28 pm

Chef Tim — OMG, how many islands can one agent’s wife own?

beone

August 14th, 2012
7:29 pm

The Braves will make the playoffs after winning the Wild Card sudden death game. Top 3 starters will be Maholm, Meds & Hudson in that order. My 2 cents.

"Chef" Tim Dix

August 14th, 2012
7:30 pm

Jeff, the b**** wanted the Philippines.

Sonny Clusters

August 14th, 2012
7:32 pm

1st Clusters.

Metro Coach

August 14th, 2012
7:33 pm

At this point I’d prefer Medlen be the starter in the wildcard play-in game, as I have resigned myself to believing that’s where the Braves are headed. At least(barring a recurrance of the nightmare that was last September) it will probably be a home game. Perhaps the park will even be 2/3s full that night.

Jeff Schultz

August 14th, 2012
7:40 pm

Welcome aboard, Clusters.

Jim Pierce

August 14th, 2012
7:40 pm

All I will say is, Im never comfortable with Hanson on the mound. The man makes me nervous lol He has to earn his way back into the rotation. Personally, I think he will have a short leash on him. I’d love to see him have success, but I still want Medlin as a starter.

Jeff Schultz

August 14th, 2012
7:40 pm

It’s a three-Uggla-assist inning. Pretty sure nobody has ever topped that.

Jim Pierce

August 14th, 2012
7:42 pm

Metro coach: The way the Nats are playing, the Braves will never catch them. Braves are just too inconsistent,and usually lose to lesser talented teams. (see last night)

Jim Pierce

August 14th, 2012
7:43 pm

Jeff: Maybe Furcals unassisted triple play would? lol

Sonny Clusters

August 14th, 2012
7:43 pm

Back when we was playing ball we would always try to protect our fingers because all you have to do is look at the Braves and know that a finger injury can be a prolonged injury or it can be a season-ending injury if you stick a palm frond in it. When we was playing ball we almost never handled palm fronds and it we did we’d wear some protection against palm frond penetration. It just made sense.

Sonny Clusters

August 14th, 2012
7:46 pm

Batting .212 we’d try using a palm frond at the plate.

Jeff Schultz

August 14th, 2012
7:52 pm

Clusters — I do believe you are the first ever to reference “palm frond penetration.” And I’m not really sure I want to know what that is.

Jeff Schultz

August 14th, 2012
7:53 pm

I guess I should tell you something about the game, just in case you stepped out for a Creamsicle. Braves lead 1-0.. … More? … Hudson has retired 10 straight since a first-inning walk. That’s it. I’m exhausted.

Sonny Clusters

August 14th, 2012
8:04 pm

Jeff, you may need a night off like Jason Heyward. Do you thing they could let Reed Johnson write the column between innings? Playing ball never made us tired when we was young and strong and we almost never took a day off because Coach always wanted a Clusters in the lineup. It’s a lot like Fredi wanting Uglla in the lineup because we read he’s been getting some really big walks lately.

jfreak13713

August 14th, 2012
8:08 pm

I still see myself as the 21 year old hunk of man I use to be and get pissed at my wife when she tells me I’m just another 40 year old with a beer belly! Hanson hasn’t look good in a year now and for Mac saying that he has learned to win with 90 mph fastball and location isn’t the truth! Hanson hasn’t won with that crap of an arm! He is losing and losing badly which is why he was disabled and sent to minors! Forget the W-L record as many of those games his OFFENSE won the game. Hanson is now a 4 or 5 starter at best. The problem with the Braves is they have a staff full of 4 and 5 staters. If you are going to throw 88 – 90 then you better have Glavine and Maddux control. Hanson does NOT which is why he can only pitch 5 innings before he pulled due to high pitch count.

See Ya Tommy! Hope you got your education??

Jeff Schultz

August 14th, 2012
8:11 pm

Clusters — I will accept only you or Mark Lemke as my guest blogger for Braves games. Or maybe David Ross.

Sonny Clusters

August 14th, 2012
8:13 pm

Well, given those choices we are ready. Don’t forget we was Honor Roll.

son's who?

August 14th, 2012
8:18 pm

Creamsickle? Jeff Schultz, doggone ya! (Quickly heads out the door to Flash Foods)

Jeff Schultz

August 14th, 2012
8:19 pm

Uggla goes ding-dong. The way Hudson is pitching 2-0 lead may be enough.

Steve

August 14th, 2012
8:20 pm

Jeff, looks like another huge crowd tonight. They talked about this today on 680 the fan so I thought I would ask, what are your thoughts on the terrible attendance year after year (minus weekend games and games against popular teams)? It seems like the Braves have tried everything (all you can eat seats, flex pricing, packages, etc). It amazes me that terrible teams like Colorado and Milwaukee are drawing better than Atlanta who is in the middle of a pennant chase. I know the excuses of school is in, traffic sucks, we are spoiled, etc. I am pretty sure there is traffic and school in other cities. My personal opinion is simply the location of the stadium and having nothing to do before or after the game.

Sonny Clusters

August 14th, 2012
8:20 pm

Mostly, when we was a baby we played infield. It was not until we was shaving in fifth grade that we moved to center field. Coach wanted us out there in case anybody got hold of one. Speaking of that, Uggla just got hold of one and is now batting .213 with 14 home runs and some big walks. We was thinking if Uglla got a Buck Commander tattoo on his biceps he could make the little deer dance and do things that would be entertaining and at $60 million he needs to be entertaining.

DawgNole

August 14th, 2012
8:23 pm

Jeff Schultz
August 14th, 2012
7:52 pm

Clusters — I do believe you are the first ever to reference “palm frond penetration.” And I’m not really sure I want to know what that is.
___________________

Ask ol’ Diaz; he knows what it is.

JWOOD

August 14th, 2012
8:26 pm

I think two half-seasons of good to “ok” pitching are not enough to judge. Lost velocity might be a result of some small injuries. Maybe a workout in the offseason and Hanson could be back to serious form.

DawgNole

August 14th, 2012
8:27 pm

Jeff Schultz
August 14th, 2012
8:19 pm

Uggla goes ding-dong. The way Hudson is pitching 2-0 lead may be enough.
_________________

Uggla gets an awful lot of grief on these blogs, and based on his lengthy droughts at the plate, he probably deserves some. But he strikes me as a real hustler in the field and a team guy in the dugout. I just think the team could do a lot worse than putting him out there in the hope that he shakes off this latest batting slump.

Steve

August 14th, 2012
8:29 pm

DawgNole, agreed!

Jeff Schultz

August 14th, 2012
8:29 pm

Hanson just flying though lineup: 20 batters faced, 1 walk, 1 hit.

PutMeInCoach

August 14th, 2012
8:32 pm

Looks like the crowd agrees Hanson is the odd man out. I am in full agreement that Hanson has to be moved to the bullpen or out of Atlanta. Besides his lost velocity and cussing at management, he has never been able to hold a runner at first, so Medlen gets another plus for the starting five.

Jeff Schultz

August 14th, 2012
8:32 pm

Steve — I don’t think the Braves can do anything more to draw fans except win. People are either excited and they’ll make the trip to the stadium or they’re not (and won’t). It’s not expensive like you said, especially with the specials. I’m sure in last few weeks if there’s a race, people will show up.

PutMeInCoach

August 14th, 2012
8:33 pm

And HUDSON is pitching tonight.

Jeff Schultz

August 14th, 2012
8:35 pm

Dawgnole — Yes on all counts with Uggla: He gets grief and deserves it; he hustles; he’s a team guy; yes, Braves could do worse. Criticism comes in part because of the money he makes, relative to expected production.

Steve

August 14th, 2012
8:35 pm

Let’s hope so. Plus it’s hard to turn down HDTV, free beer at home, and a live blog!

Jeff Schultz

August 14th, 2012
8:37 pm

Chip-ah. … 3 straight hits, 1 run in, 2 on, nobody out.

Steve

August 14th, 2012
8:37 pm

Chipper still amazes me.

Jeff Schultz

August 14th, 2012
8:38 pm

It’s been a very quiet year for the Chipper Jones critics, don’t you think?

Jeff Schultz

August 14th, 2012
8:48 pm

Hudson being pulled out after single … why?

PutMeInCoach

August 14th, 2012
8:52 pm

Denorfia hit .500 against Huddy last year maybe?

Jeff Schultz

August 14th, 2012
8:54 pm

Baseball has this obsession with pitch counts. Hudson was at 97. I’ve never understood it. More injuries and DL stints than ever in game, and yet suggestion is that under 100 pitches will preserve guys. Bolshoi.