Hits hard to come by against Hanson

Hits hard to come by against Hanson

MESA, Arizona - Let's get one thing straight. Atlanta Braves right-hander Tommy Hanson has actually given up some hits in 2008.

Just not very many nor very often.

When it came time to select the 2008 MiLBY winners for single-game performances, Hanson's name came up more than once, for different outings. And odds are it will come up again in a few weeks when it's time to name the Arizona Fall League MVP.

But for now, we're honoring the Braves' Minor League Pitcher of the Year as the MiLBY winner for Class A Advanced Single Game Performance for his first of many outstanding outings, the one he delivered on April 4 in the Myrtle Beach Pelicans' season-opening victory over the Wilmington Blue Rocks.

Hanson, 22, did not get the win that night because it took his team 13 innings to pull out a 2-0 victory, but he did his part to get the Pelicans' season started right.

Facing one batter over the minimum, Hanson tossed five innings of no-hit ball, recording a then-career-best 13 strikeouts before reaching his early-season pitch limit.

Hanson, the Braves' 22nd-round pick in 2005 out of Riverside Community College, had felt good going into the start and was stoked to be given the ball on Opening Night.

"I had a lot of adrenaline going and was really excited to get out there," he recalled. "And once I did, it was just one of those days where everything was going good and I was just putting the ball where I wanted to."

When Pelicans manager Rocket Wheeler let him know his work was done after five innings, Hanson understood.

"I knew they weren't going to keep me out there much longer with my pitch count," said Hanson, who is pitching for Wheeler again with the Mesa Solar Sox in the Arizona Fall League. "Obviously, I wanted to stay in the game, but that's just the way it goes."

He certainly didn't take the attitude of, "Well, that's OK, I'll just throw a no-hitter another day," but that's exactly what happened.

After reeling off four straight starts without allowing an earned run and posting an 0.90 ERA over 40 innings in seven outings for the Pelicans, Hanson was promoted by the Braves to Double-A Mississippi in early May.

Hanson actually looked mortal in his first taste of Double-A, allowing eight earned runs over 2 2/3 innings in his second start there before settling in. And in his ninth start, on June 25, he became the first pitcher in Mississippi Braves history to throw a nine-inning no-hitter, striking out 14 in a 6-0 shutout of the Birmingham Barons (White Sox).

Overall for the M-Braves, Hanson went 8-4 with a 3.03 ERA in 18 starts, finishing the season 11-5 with a 2.41 ERA. He struck out 163 batters over 138 innings, fourth in the Minors, his 10.63 strikeouts per nine innings ranked second and his .175 opponents' average led all Minor League starting pitchers.

You might think that after pitching that many innings Hanson would be kicking back at home, but that's not the case. He headed out to Mesa to tweak his changeup in the elite AFL.

And AFL hitters haven't had much more luck against him than their Carolina and Southern League counterparts did.

In his first three starts for the Solar Sox, Hanson allowed one hit over 8 2/3 innings while striking out 14. In his last start on Oct. 18, he fanned nine in four perfect innings.

On Oct. 24, Hanson got the nod to start in the Rising Stars Showcase, an All-Star Game in an All-Star league. There, he pitched three more hitless innings, striking out seven.

Lisa Winston is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.