Hanson picks up where he left off
A year after rookie hype, Braves righty starts off strong
PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Coming off his 12-win rookie season, Tommy Hanson has returned to the Spring Training scene without the pressures that he faced last year, when he was attempting to live up to the expectations presented after he was deemed the game's top right-handed pitching prospect.
Still, even with his prospect days behind him, Hanson felt somewhat uneasy on Tuesday afternoon, when he made his Grapefruit League season debut for the Braves in their 4-2 loss to the Mets. But after missing the strike zone with a couple of his early pitches, the 23-year-old hurler found little difficulty in his two scoreless innings of work.
"The first [outing] felt weird," Hanson said. "But it only took a little bit for it to feel normal. I think as I keep going, everything will come back and start to feel normal again."
After allowing Jesus Feliciano to rip a leadoff single to left field, Hanson recorded back-to-back strikeouts of Ruben Tejada and Gary Matthews Jr. His 18-pitch first inning, which included 11 strikes, concluded with Mike Jacobs' flyout to center field.
"That first inning, I was throwing a lot more pitches than I wanted to," Hanson said. "I was getting deep into counts. I was trying not to do that, but I felt good with the pitches I got them out [with]."
During a perfect nine-pitch second inning, Hanson buckled Ike Davis with a curveball that on this day seemed to be just as impressive as his patented slider.
By the time Hanson's first test of the exhibition season was complete, he had recorded three strikeouts and found the strike zone with 17 of his 27 pitches. His challenge was lessened when the Mets opted to rest most of their regulars because heavy morning rains had left the field soggy.
"All my secondary pitches felt good," Hanson said. "I'd say half of my fastballs were right where I wanted them, so I'll just keep working on my fastball command. I feel like I'm close. I feel like I'm ready to go. I'd definitely say that was a confidence booster out there today.
"I wouldn't say I didn't expect to throw that well, but it went better than planned."
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.