March 12, 2013
The cynics' perception of Tommy Hanson is that he's like your high school's prom king -- he peaked too early.
Hanson was rated the fourth-best prospect in the game heading into his first season according to Baseball America, and finished third in the National League Rookie of the Year Award voting in 2009. He went 31-19 with a 2.99 ERA in his first two and a half seasons, establishing himself as one of the best young pitchers in the game. Then back issues flared up, his shoulder started to hurt and his velocity dropped. In his last 36 starts leading up to his arrival in Anaheim, he posted a 4.96 ERA, making one wonder whether his best days are behind him.
But, then again, Hanson is only 26.
"I'm looking at this season to be a big year for me," the 6-foot-6 right-hander said.
"Obviously, I don't want to pitch like I did last year. I know I'm better than that, and I know I can pitch better than that, so I'm looking forward to doing that this year."
Coming off a season that finished with a career worst in ERA (4.48), strikeout-to-walk ratio (2.27) and home runs allowed (27), the Braves practically gave up on Hanson, flipping him for hard-throwing reliever Jordan Walden in a one-for-one deal on Nov. 30. It's not a knock on Walden; you just hardly see teams trade a controllable, talented, young starting pitcher for a late-inning relief pitcher coming off a subpar season.
Unless, perhaps, there are serious concerns about his future.
"I'm not worried about them anymore," said Hanson, who holds no ill will towards the Braves and saw the trade as simply "business."
"I have a lot of great friends over there, and it was nice when I was there. But now, that's the least of my worries of what they thought or what they think about me now. I know I'm here, and I've been busting my [butt] this whole offseason and since I've been here."