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.
Chipper feeling good, starts series finale
HOUSTON -- Chipper Jones returned to Minute Maid Park on Wednesday afternoon, feeling pretty good about what he had experienced after returning to the lineup on Tuesday night and fueling the Braves to their first win of the year.
But he was obviously feeling the effects of playing his first game in three weeks, just two weeks removed from a surgical procedure that repaired torn meniscus in his left knee.
"When is the last time you ever saw me stretching in the clubhouse?" Jones asked as he stretched in front of two reporters who have covered him for more than a decade. "I can tell you. You've never seen it." Moments later, Eric Hinske walked by, looked at Jones and said, "What are you doing -- are you stretching?"
Still, Jones felt strong enough to play Wednesday night. Two weeks shy of his 40th birthday, the veteran third baseman showed his tremendous natural talent on Tuesday, producing hits in his first two at-bats, including a tiebreaking two-run home run in the third inning.
Manager Fredi Gonzalez said Hinske reacted to the home run by exclaiming, "It can't be that easy."
The only live pitching Jones had seen since March 20 came courtesy of a short batting practice session against Randall Delgado on Friday. Plus, he had compiled just 25 at-bats in the spring before undergoing the knee surgery.
Gonzalez pulled Jones into his office on Monday and proposed the idea of playing three Minor League rehab games before returning. But less than a minute into that conversation, he realized he was not going to win that battle.
Murphy to join Braves' TV booth as analyst
HOUSTON -- After spending two weeks being introduced to the broadcasting side of baseball during Spring Training, Dale Murphy said he was hoping to spend some more time behind the microphone this summer.
Many Braves fans will be delighted to know Murphy will receive his wish. The two-time National League MVP will provide analysis during at least 14 Braves games this year. His first assignment with the Fox Sports South broadcast team will come on Sunday afternoon, when he calls the series finale against the Brewers with Joe Simpson and Chip Caray.
"Murphy was the face of 'America's Team' in the 1980's, and one of the most preeminent players of the decade," said Jeff Genthner, senior vice president and general manager of FOX Sports South and SportSouth. "Murphy brings to the booth incredible insight on the game of baseball and great knowledge of the Braves' organization, as well as his trademark charisma and stellar reputation for being one of the all-time 'good guys' in professional sports."
One of the most beloved figures in Braves history, Murphy batted .268 with 371 home runs and an .829 OPS during his 15-season stint with Atlanta. He won consecutive NL MVP Awards in 1982 and '83.
Murphy's current 14-game schedule consists solely of games scheduled before the All-Star break. His schedule includes consecutive three-game series against the Blue Jays (June 8-10) and Yankees (June 11-13). He will also be in the broadcast booth for the July 2-5 series against the Cubs. Additional games could be added as the season progresses.
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.