Tommy Hanson had an unusual report from spring training when he talked to his father the other day.
"I threw the best bullpen I've thrown in four years," the Angels right-hander recalled saying.
Normally, pitchers don't put too much stock in spring training bullpen sessions. A good one is any one that ends without a sore arm. But Hanson walked off the mound on that day feeling especially satisfied.
"I hit every single one of my spots," he said. "All of my pitches were good and they were down in the zone."
Hanson, acquired in a trade from the Atlanta Braves in November, is still more than a week away from a competitive spring training outing, and he's more than a month away from throwing a pitch that counts. In the meantime, he has little other than his feeling in the bullpen or his arm to go by.
"I feel 100 percent," Hanson said. "I feel like I did two years ago, when everything was coming together. I'm going good and my body feels good."
That's good news for the Angels, because Hanson represents the X-Factor in the rotation.
Starters Jered Weaver, C.J. Wilson, Jason Vargas and Joe Blanton have all been around long enough and been consistent enough that it's not difficult to project their numbers.
Hanson is another story, though. In his short big league career, he's gone from being one of baseball's best pitching prospects – a guy with Cy Young stuff – to battling injury and lost velocity.
In Hanson's four big league seasons, his ERA has gone from 2.89 to 3.33 to 3.60 to 4.48. Things began to unravel on him around the middle of 2011, when he first felt some back pain and then came up with a sore shoulder. Hanson's ERA jumped to from 3.15 in the first half to 4.06 after the break. Then, in the offseason before 2012, he said he spent too much time working on getting healthy and not enough on getting strong. While he wasn't hurt last year, he ran out of gas and finished with a 5.69 ERA after the All-Star break.
"I didn't feel I was strong enough and where I needed to be physically to go through the summer and to the end of the season," he said. "I was making good pitches but just making more mistakes than I normally would, and those mistakes were getting crushed."
Hanson could be the X factor in Angels' rotation
Orange County Register | Feb 25