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02/13/12 4:37 PM EST
Delivery adjusted, Hanson no longer hits pause
New pitching motion should limit injuries, opponent's stolen bases
By Mark Bowman / MLB.com
ATLANTA -- Tommy Hanson was hesitant when Braves Minor League physical therapist Troy Jones suggested that he alter his awkward delivery. But after thinking about it for a couple of months, Hanson returned to Turner Field during the early days of January and told pitching coach Roger McDowell that he wanted to make the change. "It's not drastic, but it's definitely different," Hanson said after working out at Turner Field on Monday morning. Instead of performing a complete makeover, Hanson has simply focused on removing the momentary pause that had previously created a snapping-like motion in his delivery. The adjustment should lessen the stress placed on his right shoulder and finally provide some defense against stolen bases. "I'm really just cutting out that pause," Hanson said. "I felt like I was throwing with all arm. Also, by changing, I could kill two birds with one stone as far as cutting down the running game. Somebody gets on and they have just run all day. I think it's going to help both." Hanson entered this offseason with some uncertainty surrounding his right shoulder. He had battled discomfort dating back to the 2010 season and missed the final two months of the 2011 season. While helping Hanson strengthen his back and shoulder muscles at the club's Spring Training complex this offseason, Jones suggested the delivery be altered. The 25-year-old right-hander initially balked at the thought of altering the delivery that had brought him to the Majors as a heralded prospect in 2009. But given a couple of months to think about the suggestion, Hanson determined the change could help his shoulder and reduce the frustration he has encountered with men on base. Hanson has allowed 81 stolen bases in his career, the most by any pitcher dating back to his June 7, 2009, Major League debut. Opponents have been successful on 90 percent (63 of 70) of stolen-base attempts against Hanson the past two seasons. Ted Lilly (94.8), Josh Beckett (90.7) and Randy Wolf (90.6) are the only pitchers with a worse percentage, with far fewer attempts against them. "The biggest thing this will do is make him quicker to the plate and help him hold runners," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "Instead of 1.8 [seconds] or 1.9 to the plate, they're going to have to respect him a little bit." Hanson believes he will find a dramatic difference if he can just shave a few fractions of a second off the amount of time it takes him to begin his delivery from the stretch and get the baseball to the catcher's mitt. "If I could just get to 1.5, that will help," Hanson said. "I don't want to be at 1, but I don't want to stay where I was either." So far, Hanson has found greater comfort with his altered delivery while throwing from the stretch. At the same time, he is confident he will find more consistent comfort throwing from the windup during Spring Training. Hanson does not seem concerned that his altered delivery will have a significant effect on his command or the action of his pitches. He said the action on his slider and curveball have essentially been the same during his recent bullpen sessions. "It's not like I'm changing my arm slot or anything like that," Hanson said. "I'm just separating my hands later. That way, my arm doesn't get up too soon and then you have that pause. My legs and the timing aspect are what I need to get the most comfortable with, because it is a little different in terms of how the timing goes."
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.