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Tommy Hanson Clocked At 99 mph


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Tommy Hanson clocked at 99 mph in debut

Chipper Jones, Bobby Cox pleased with prospect’s performance


The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Lake Buena Vista, Fla. — The only way Tommy Hanson’s highly anticipated debut might have surpassed expectations was two perfect innings with six strikeouts.

He was far from that, allowing two runs, two hits and a walk in two innings of Thursday’s 8-7 Grapefruit League win against the Astros. But the top Braves pitching prospect did fine in the view of his manager and third baseman Chipper Jones.

“He got hit hard a couple of times on breaking balls up in the zone, but I was pleased,” Jones said. “Command was decent, velocity was there. About what I expected, what I would consider typical for a first start.”

Hanson threw even harder than he usually does, including one fastball clocked at 99 mph on the stadium radar gun and others at 95-96 mph.

“I had a little bit of jitters going,” said the 6-foot-6 right-hander, who entered the nationally televised game in the third inning, the Braves trailing 3-2 after Jorge Campillo was roughed up in the first two innings.

“I was pumped up,” said Hanson, 22, who threw almost all fastballs in the third, then mixed in sharp sliders, sinkers and curveballs in the fourth. “I tried to tone it down a little in [his] second inning.”

He said his debut could’ve gone better, but that he’d build on it. He’s set to start an exhibition Wednesday against Panama’s World Baseball Classic team.

“Everything I saw today was outstanding,” said manager Bobby Cox, who called Hanson one of the best prospects he’s seen come through the organization.

“He gave up two runs, but he had a lot of velocity and tremendous movement in the strike zone,” Cox said. “Someone said he hit 99 [mph] today. It doesn’t look like it from the dugout, because he gets so much movement.”

Hanson threw 10 consecutive fastballs to start his performance, walking Carlos Lee and hitting Miguel Tejada in the hip before striking out David Newhan looking at a big curveball.

“He throws hard,” Lee said. “He was falling behind guys, missing his spots.”

Gonzalez: I feel great

He allowed as many runs (two) and as many hits (two) as outs recorded, but closer felt good about his spring debut Thursday.

“I’m just glad to go out there and feel nothing in my elbow,” said the left-hander, who returned in June from ligament-transplant elbow surgery and spent much of last season regaining arm strength. “It’s nothing like last year.”

He retired the last two of five batters he faced in the fifth inning, and was encouraged by a lack of any discomfort for the first time in two years.

Gonzalez was on a 20-pitch limit in his spring debut, and left after striking out the fifth batter he faced in the fifth inning, Yordanny Ramirez, who looked at curveball for the punchout.

“You bring in closers in the fourth or fifth innings, it never works out well,” Cox said, citing lack of adrenaline. “He finished good, with a good breaking ball. He says he feels good.”

Gonzalez gave up two hits and a walk to the first three batters. His fastball topped out at 90 mph, well off pre-surgery peak. He insisted that was typical.

“You go back six, eight years,” he said. “You don’t see me doing anything but topping out at 86-88 [in spring training]. Turn the lights on and it’s a whole different story. But I don’t start doing that until pretty much the last week.”

Freeman goes deep

After the Braves scored four runs in the seventh to erase most of a 7-2 deficit, left-handed slugger hit a tying homer in the eighth against lefty . Freeman, a 19-year-old first baseman, is one of five Braves in Baseball America’s new Top 100 prospects list, including Hanson (No. 4) and outfielder (No. 5). The Braves were the only organization with two in the top 10. … Braves backup catcher ’ two-run homer was the only hit in three innings against Astros starter .

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