Tommy Hanson got his stuff back …
Tuesday’s start — his first since June 20 — saw Hanson command a fastball like he hasn’t in quite some time. He only went 5 1/3 innings — giving up one run and throwing 75 pitches because he needs to ease his way back from a forearm strain — and it didn’t have much of an impact on the Angels’ 10-3 loss to the Twins in 10 innings.
But Hanson had his velocity back.
In 2012, his average fastball velocity was 89.6 mph. Heading into Tuesday’s start, it was 88.9 mph in 2013. On Tuesday, it was consistently between 92 to 94 mph, reminiscent of his first three seasons with the Braves, when Hanson established himself as one of the best young pitchers in the game.
The question is: Was this simply because his arm was fresh, or is this sustainable for the rest of the season?
“I hope it’s sustainable,” Scioscia said. “In his rehab appearance, when we got the report back, we were pleasantly surprised by just seeing him not only feel strong but get back to some of the numbers that made him one of the up-and-coming young stars in the National League when he was with the Braves. That’s the stuff he had tonight.”
A livelier fastball, which he was spotting wherever he chose, played up his slider and curveball and led to a season-high-tying eight punchouts.
“I didn’t feel like I had to force anything tonight,” Hanson said. “It was there. I felt really good, and I feel like the results were there, as well.”
What, exactly, he did to get that velocity back? Hanson isn’t sure. He said he’s been “trying to speed up to home plate, carry that momentum to the catcher, try to stay on line and try to simplify things a little bit.” But he didn’t expect to be adding at least two ticks to his fastball. Of the 43 pitches pitchF/X identified as four-seam fastballs from Hanson, four were 94 mph, 24 were 93 mph and 13 were 92 mph. Only two — both in his final inning — came in at 91 mph.
Hanson hasn’t averaged a fastball velocity higher than 91 mph since August 2011.
“I was getting a lot of swings and misses that most times I don’t get,” he said. “It was a lot of fun today. It was a lot of fun pitching. I felt really good about it.”
This is a big next two months for the 26-year-old Hanson, who entered with a 5.10 ERA in nine starts. He’s arbitration-eligible for the second time this offseason, in line for a raise from his $3.725 million salary, and needs to prove himself if he wants to avoid being non-tendered this offseason.
Now, it seems, he has his stuff back.
Can he sustain it?
“I don’t know,” Hanson said. “I was throwing a little bit harder tonight, and we’ll see what happens the next time out.”