Hanson's velocity up, but not at 2011's level

Hanson's velocity up, but not at 2011's level

HOUSTON -- Tommy Hanson feels good about the fact that he has gone through his first starts without feeling the right shoulder discomfort that sidelined him for the final seven months of last season. But the Braves hurler would feel much better if he could soon regain the fastball velocity he possessed earlier in his career.

According to BrooksBaseball.net's PitchFX tool, Hanson's average fastball velocity improved from 88.78 mph on Opening Day to 89.89 mph in Tuesday night's victorious effort against the Astros. While the improvement was encouraging, the 25-year-old hurler is not generating the life he did on his fastball before last year.

Fangraphs.com lists Hanson's average fastball velocity in 2010 at 92.7. That number dipped to 91.1 last year and stands at 89.3 through this year's first two starts. "I felt good," Hanson said on Tuesday night. "I try not to peak up there because it doesn't look good. But I peaked up there a couple times and when I did throw my four-seamer, it was 90 or 91 mph. That was good. Hopefully it comes back, because it's good to have that in your back pocket and I don't want to throw in the high 80s."

Hanson has been toying with a two-seam fastball grip that Kris Medlen showed him. His hope is to simply add another pitch to his arsenal. But an American League scout who watched Tuesday night's game echoed the sentiments of two Major League scouts, who said they saw very little sink with any of the fastballs he threw on Opening Day.

Hanson's inability to consistently command his fastball on Tuesday led him to throw a high percentage of breaking balls. He threw 52 fastballs, 47 breaking balls (33 sliders and 14 curveballs) during his 101-pitch effort.

There is certainly reason to believe Hanson could continue to build arm strength over the next couple of weeks. The concussion he suffered on Feb. 20 prevented him from throwing off a mound again until Feb. 29. This delayed his first exhibition start until March 11.