Given the misfortune Hanson has encountered since last year's All-Star break, he was not shocked to take the mound against the Blue Jays on Sunday afternoon with a heavy rain shower pelting him. This was his first appearance in a game since Aug. 6 and it proved to be shorter than expected. A rain delay forced him to end his outing with two runners on base and nobody out in the second inning.
"The first inning was a lot more fun than the second," Hanson said. "I was getting balls that were soaked and wet and the mound was drenched. But it was still fun. When I was out there, I was just laughing about it because I was glad to be back out there on the mound. It was fun to compete again. It was one of those conditions where I didn't really care what happened because it didn't matter. It was almost like I was a little kid playing in the rain again."
With the miserable conditions, the Braves were certainly not concerned about the fact that Hanson allowed a two-run homer to Jeff Mathis and issued consecutive walks before rain halted play in the second.
Manager Fredi Gonzalez was more interested in the improvements Hanson has made since altering his delivery in January. The alterations were made to lessen the strain on his right shoulder, which sidelined him for the final two months last year, and to improve his defense against potential basestealers.
The Braves timed his delivery to the plate at 1.4 seconds on Sunday. With the much more exaggerated hitch he had in his delivery, Hanson was consistently timed at 1.8 last year.
"In baseball terms, that tells a runner, 'Yes, you can go,' and that's not so easy anymore," Gonzalez said. "You eliminate the mediocre baserunners when you go 1.3 or 1.4. The guys like [Jose] Reyes and your top-tier basestealers -- Michael Bourn -- that time is still go for them. But you eliminate a lot of the average baserunners."
Hanson's new delivery still includes a hitch that is not nearly as exaggerated as it had been and it occurs before his arm passes his shoulder. His previous delivery included a pause when his arm was perpendicular with his shoulder.
After being sidelined for more than a week because of a concussion suffered in a Feb. 20 auto accident, Hanson said he immediately regained comfort with this new delivery.
"I felt great," Hanson said. "Obviously, my command was a little bit off, but my body felt really good. I made some good pitches at times. I just wasn't as consistent as I needed to be. But that was my first game and my body felt good. That was the key for me."