Hanson's ascension now boasts Game 2 nod
Cox entrusts sophomore righty, who has impressed, with big spot
SAN FRANCISCO -- Braves right-hander Tommy Hanson is finishing up his second big league season. So the prospect of starting Friday night's Game 2 of the National League Division Series against the Giants at AT&T Park at 9:30 p.m. ET on TBS is exciting enough.But winning it all in Bobby Cox's last of 29 seasons as a manager just adds to the drama of this postseason. Hanson was hit above his right eye by a deflected ball during batting practice on Thursday night, but he came out for introductions before the game and seemed no worse for the wear, a Braves spokesman said. After the Braves lost Game 1 to the Giants, 1-0, on Thursday, Hanson left no doubt about his immediate future.
"I'm good to go," he said as he left the visitors' clubhouse.
The Braves are so pumped up about the prospect of winning for their skipper, they are wearing T-shirts that boast the phrase "11 FOR 6" inscribed in red against a dark blue background. That's 11 wins to capture the World Series for No. 6 -- Cox."I think this whole season has been special, especially to be able to play for him in his last year," said Hanson, who should be fine to make his start despite the BP incident. "We have those shirts, so it's definitely exciting. We're not thinking about that too much. Obviously, we want to take it one game, one step at a time. But that would be awesome to be able to do [win for Cox]."
Cox said he loves all the attention the end of his career has generated, but he prefers to focus on the team."I try to discourage [all that talk]," Cox said. "We win as a team, not for me. It's nice of them to say that, and it's probably the proper thing to say. But we're going to win this thing for them." Hanson has already been a big help, getting the Braves back into the playoffs (the 15th time in Cox's tenure) for the first time since 2005. The star of the Arizona Fall League in '08, Hanson pitched on Saturday against the Phillies, throwing six innings of scoreless, six-hit ball. The Phillies rattled the Braves' bullpen, winning, 7-0, that day, but Atlanta won the NL Wild Card on the final day of the regular season. On Sunday, the Braves defeated the Phillies and the Padres lost to the Giants. "It's crazy, you know?" Hanson said about his quick ascent as a Major Leaguer. "I'm still taking it all in, and it's just an awesome feeling. It feels like I just got called up not too long ago, and now I'm here in the playoffs. I couldn't picture it, being with a better group of guys. This whole season has been one of the funniest seasons I've ever had. So it's kind of suiting that we're in this situation that we're in right now." Cox noted that Hanson allowed only one run and 13 hits in his final three starts, but didn't receive a decision. His overall numbers for the year were 10-11 with a 3.33 ERA in 34 starts. "His record definitely is not indicative of the way he's pitched this year," Cox said. "We've gotten him no runs all year long -- nothing. He was hyped just like Jason Heyward was in our organization. When he was out in the Fall League, all the scouts -- not just our scouts, but every scout in baseball that covered him -- thought he would be a No. 1 starter. And he's real close to being that right now, for me." Veteran observers of the AFL believe that Hanson was a more dominant pitcher in 2008 than Nationals right-hander Stephen Strasburg was last fall. Strasburg suffered several injuries and missed key games, including the AFL championship tilt. In 2008, Hanson was named to the AFL All-Prospect Team and Rising Stars Team. "I was out there and he was the talk," Cox said about Hanson. Now it's not about talk, but putting it all on the line.
Barry M. Bloom is national reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Boomskie on Baseball. Follow @boomskie on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.