Hanson's debut marred by long balls
Right-hander allows three home runs in six uneven frames
ATLANTA -- There were stretches of pure dominance and reminders that even the most highly-regarded prospects incur mortal wounds while making mistakes against big league hitters.
Unfortunately for Tommy Hanson, his much-anticipated Major League debut didn't prove to be as memorable as he would have liked. But with the Braves rallying to gain an 8-7 win over the Brewers at Turner Field on Sunday afternoon, he can at least deal better deal with the reality that he's not invincible.
"I'm sure he would have liked to have had a better premiere here in Atlanta," Chipper Jones said. "But the bottom line is that he got some valuable experience and we won the game. So he'll file it away, learn from it and come back and do better the next time."
Widely regarded as one of the game's top right-handed prospects, Hanson has already learned that misplaced fastballs are hit harder and farther than they were during his dominant Minor League days. While allowing seven runs -- six earned -- on six hits in six innings, the 6-foot-6, 22-year-old right-hander surrendered three homers and gained the reminder that Ryan Braun has wide-ranging power.
"It's not going to matter what kind of offspeed offerings you have if you can't command your fastball," Hanson said. "I'm just going to try to chalk it up as today happened and I'm just going to keep working and get ready for the next one."
While proving perfect through the first three innings, Hanson threw 24 of his 31 pitches for strikes and notched first-pitch strikes against five of the nine batters that he faced. During his final three innings, he found the strike zone with 34 of his 60 pitches and threw first-pitch strikes to 11 of the 17 batters that he faced.
"If I keep my command, I think it turns out a lot better," said Hanson, who had posted a 1.49 ERA and limited opponents to a .169 batting average in 11 starts for Triple-A Gwinnett this year.
Having witnessed the debuts of John Smoltz, Tom Glavine and Steve Avery, Braves manager Bobby Cox said that Hanson's debut undoubtedly drew the most hype. Yet while retiring the first 10 batters he faced, the mild-mannered hurler seemed unfazed by the environment.
"I didn't feel that at all," Hanson said. "I was just anxious to get out there and I was excited. All the publicity and stuff like that, that I get, I don't think it affects me at all."
Hanson's most impressive stretch during the early innings came when he needed just 12 pitches to breeze through the second inning with consecutive strikeouts of Prince Fielder, Mike Cameron and Mat Gamel.
"There's a whole lot there," Cox said. "He's got a ton of weapons and he's going to be a good one. It won't be too far off and he'll be on the National League All-Star team."
Before Hanson starts notching his potential rewards and honors, he'll have to draw from the lessons provided by Braun, whose fourth-inning two-run homer accounted for the first hit surrendered by young right-hander.
Having already taken advantage of a fastball that moved back over the middle of the plate, Braun added his second two-run homer in the sixth inning, when he directed an 0-2 fastball over the right-field wall. Two batters later, Cameron directed his own two-run shot over the left-center-field wall.
"You can see why he came with such high praise and regard," Braun said. "We were just more aggressive the second time through. We just wanted to make sure he was throwing strikes."
While displaying a fastball that reached 97 mph and steady command that prevented him from issuing a walk until the sixth, Hanson displayed the makings of a future superstar. In the process, he also provided the reminder that he's still a young pitcher whose initiation to the Majors won't be free of frustration.
"He's an impressive guy," Cox said. "Ask any scout that has seen him pitch. He's the real deal."
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.