ATLANTA — The wait is over for the Atlanta Braves’ most heralded pitching prospect of the decade.
Tommy Hanson will make his major league debut today against the Milwaukee Brewers after only 11 Triple-A appearances. Even so, he said his impatience was building.
"It was a little bit," Hanson said Saturday. "I’ve always said worry about what I can control, but I think toward the end I was starting to get a little bit impatient. It all worked out."
Hanson has been associated with an impressive list of Cy Young winners even before he makes his first pitch.
It will be difficult for Braves fans to overlook the fact that today was supposed to be the season debut for two-time Cy Young winner Tom Glavine, but the 305-game winner was released on Wednesday to clear a roster spot for Hanson.
In the offseason, it was widely reported the Braves couldn’t complete a trade for San Diego ace Jake Peavy, the 2007 winner, because Atlanta wouldn’t agree to send Hanson to the Padres.
In spring training, when Hanson made a serious push to make the Atlanta roster despite never pitching above Double-A, manager Bobby Cox said the 6-foot-6 right-hander’s slider compared favorably with the one thrown by 1996 Cy Young winner John Smoltz.
Hanson’s dash through the minor leagues was capped by a remarkable stint at Triple-A Gwinnett. He had 90 strikeouts in 66 1-3 innings, allowing only 40 hits. His ERA was a paltry 1.49.
The right-hander has dominated at every level. He started the 2008 season at Class A Myrtle Beach, where he posted a 0.90 ERA in seven starts to earn a promotion to Double-A Mississippi, where he threw a no-hitter in his ninth start and was 8-4 with a 3.03 ERA in 18 appearances.
The Hanson hype only gained momentum when he became the first pitcher to be named MVP of the hitter-friendly Arizona Fall League. He went 5-0 with a 0.63 ERA and 49 strikeouts in 28 2-3 innings, prompting speculation he might be ready to open the 2009 season in Atlanta.
Hanson’s fall made him a familiar name outside of the Braves’ organization.
"His numbers certainly jump off the page," Brewers manager Ken Macha said.
Hanson is aware he’ll be watched more closely than most rookies, including his roommate Kris Medlen, who beat him to Atlanta by about two weeks.
"I tried not to think about it too much," Hanson said. "I just wanted to go out and keep doing what I was doing and stay consistent with all my pitches. I’m just excited to be here now."
Medlen was quick to acknowledge he was nervous the day before his May 21 debut, and it showed when he gave up five runs in three innings of a loss to Colorado. He made two more starts, winning one, before moving to the bullpen.
Hanson said he is anxious but not nervous, and manager Bobby Cox agreed when asked if he expected the right-hander to be affected by the pressure.
"I don’t think so, at all," Cox said. "He’s going to be a very good big league pitcher."
It helps that Hanson spent time with the team in spring training and even pitched an exhibition game at Turner Field before the season.
"His stuff will take over," third baseman Chipper Jones said.
Said Hanson: "I just want to get out there and get going. That’s the main thing. I want to get that first batter out of the way and get the first inning out of the way and then go from there.