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Confidence remains a key for Hanson

The Sports Xchange
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As he made his way speedily through the Braves minor league system, right-hander Tommy Hanson was heralded as a once-in-a-generation pitcher.

"I wish we would have filmed his bullpens in spring training," retired manager Bobby Cox said before Hanson's debut in 2009. "You'd have been amazed what he did with the ball. (Pitching coach) Roger (McDowell) puts up the strings midway through, And he would pop those strings, I mean right on the corners. With everything. Fastball and breaking balls.

"He's had everything, basically," Cox said then, meaning that he had command of four pitches since the beginning. "He's got John Smoltz stuff. That crackling breaking ball and hard fastball that moves. He's got a pretty good downward plane to the plate. He's got movement."

Later that season, Hanson began working on a slow curve to contrast with his other pitches, making them more effective. The fastball and curveball he always had, and the slider he added midway through the 2008 season. His changeup was big-league quality before he got to the majors.

Of course, Hanson continues to work on perfecting his pitches, as he always will throughout his career. But what he concentrated on this past offseason was strengthening his lower back, which has given him trouble. That, too, will be something he continues to work on; he's been told that his height exacerbates the problem.

Now, at the season's mid-point, he is realizing more and more the importance of his mental approach. He sees how Phillies starters Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels stand on the mound, confident of the pitch they're going to throw. That's what he knows he needs to put into his pitching now: conviction.

Especially in Coors Field, he needed to believe in what he was about to throw. Hanson got the win there Thursday as the Braves beat the Rockies 9-6, but he wasn't sharp. He allowed six runs on seven hits in six innings, striking out seven and walking one.

Copyright (C) 2011 The Sports Xchange. All Rights Reserved.

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