Hanson can provide Braves a lift
Tommy Hanson deserves the same opportunity as any other pitcher to make whatever preseason preparations he needs to make without worrying too much about the results of a Grapefruit League game. But that still does not erase the reality that he provide the Braves a much-needed lift if he produces four solid innings against the Nationals this afternoon.
The Braves have been thrilled by what they have seen from Mike Minor and encouraged with the more aggressive approach Brandon Beachy took while attacking the strike zone in his last outing. But the team now needs at least one of its seasoned starters to provide at least a little reason to be confident that they will be ready to produce when the regular season starts in two weeks.
If Jair Jurrjens had not struggled after last year’s All-Star break while dealing with his bothersome right knee, it might be easier to believe he could pull a reverse Jo-Jo Reyes by producing regular season results that do not come close to resembling those in Spring Training. But as he labored through each of his first four exhibition starts, the 26-year-old pitcher has simply added to the doubts surrounding him.
So 24 hours after watching Jurrjens allow the Tigers seven runs (six earned) in five innings, Hanson will look to give the Braves reason to believe he can serve as a veteran anchor until Tim Hudson returns. At the same time with four solid innings today, he can provide himself further reason to believe he has distanced himself from the frustration he encountered when he suffered a concussion in a one-car accident on Feb. 20.
Having missed last year’s final two months with a sore right shoulder, Hanson could have certainly used a distraction-free, six-week stretch during Spring Training. Still while he was pushed a little more than a week behind schedule, he seems comfortable with his slightly “altered delivery” and confident that he will be where he needs to be when he makes his first start during the regular season’s first week.
Going to have to admit, I have been shocked to see some fans question whether Jurrjens is still the leading candidate to get the Opening Day start. It really should not matter what he has done during the exhibition season. As long as he is healthy, then he deserves the honor.
If Tim Hudson or Hanson were available to start the April 5 Opening Day game against the Mets, there might be some reason for debate. With them out of the picture, Jurrjens should essentially gain this honor by default. He’s made 115 starts for the Braves or 64 more than Beachy and Minor combined.