A seven-inning intrasquad game in February is something that shouldn’t be taken too seriously, but the Texas Rangers had a pair of pitchers of importance throw in it Monday afternoon.
Yu Darvish is the clear-cut ace of the team. He’s already established himself as one of the top pitchers in the game. So it came as no surprise to see Darvish throw a scoreless, 13-pitch inning to start the game.
Not as much is known about Tommy Hanson, though. He’s trying to overcome a difficult season on and off the field and prove that he can pitch as well as he did when he came up with the Atlanta Braves.
Hanson is among several candidates competing for a spot at the back end of the Rangers’ rotation, and it appears he has as good a shot as anyone. He needed only 11 pitches to get through a perfect second inning with his fastball sitting in the 90 mph range.
Hanson mixed in a changeup, a couple of sliders and a curveball for a called third strike for one of his two strikeouts.
“Pretty encouraging this early,” a scout said.
Hanson has been pleased by what he’s done so far this spring, but knows like everyone else it’s early.
As he said, “When there are people in the stands and the lights are on, it’s a little different.”
Still, Hanson has shown that he should receive strong consideration for a spot in the Rangers’ rotation. The opportunity is there, with Derek Holland likely out until at least the All-Star break and Matt Harrison unlikely to be ready by Opening Day.
Hanson is among several starting candidates in camp including Colby Lewis, Nick Tepesch and Robbie Ross. But, outside of Lewis, Hanson might be the most accomplished starter.
He came up through the pitching-rich Braves organization and shined during his rookie season in 2009. He went 11-4 with a 2.89 ERA over 21 starts and finished third in the National League rookie of the year vote.
Hanson followed that with a successful sophomore campaign in 2010, but it has been a rocky road since. He dealt with injuries in 2011 and 2012, was traded to the Angels prior to last season and struggled.
Hanson had more than baseball on his mind last season following the unexpected death of his stepbrother, but is ready to re-establish himself this year.
What’s his new mentality?
“Going out there and dominating,” Hanson said. “I feel really good right now. My fastball command is there and I know I can throw my off-speed pitches. If I can locate my fastball, then I feel really confident.”
Hanson’s velocity should increase as spring progresses, but he’s not known as an overpowering pitcher. Instead, his short-arm release and strong off-speed pitches are what keeps hitters off balance.
“Tommy can really throw the ball,” catcher J.P. Arencibia said. “He short arms it and has very good speed on his off-speed stuff which is tough to pick up. Then he can climb the ladder on his fastball and then throw a breaking ball off that. He knows how to pitch.”