When the Chicago White Sox signed Tommy Hanson to a Minor League contract and assigned him to Charlotte in early April, they knew the 27-year-old was going to be a reclamation project of sort.
On Tuesday, the 6-foot-6 right-hander showed signs that the organization may be nudging him in the right direction, tossing six scoreless innings to help the Knights claim a 2-1 win against the Lehigh Valley IronPigs in front of 9,055 at BB&T BallPark.
“(Hanson) just got ahead of everybody,” said Knights catcher Josh Phegley, who finished the night 2-for-3 with a home run. “I think the times that he did fall behind, he got back in there and threw some pitches that they had a hard time barreling up.
“He had a lot of movement on his fastball and just commanded down and away to right-handers really well and used his breaking stuff to keep them off balance.”
Phegley picked up the lone RBI for Charlotte in the fourth with the homer, which was his first of the season.
The winning run was unearned and came in the sixth inning when Lehigh Valley centerfielder Leandro Castro misplayed a single by Conor Gillaspie that allowed Carlos Sanchez to score all the way from first. Sanchez got on base with a single, which extended his hitting streak to nine games.
After Taylor Thompson allowed a run in two innings of relief, Javy Guerra pitched a perfect ninth to record his second save of the season. The win was the second in a row for the Knights (12-19), who still have two games remaining with the IronPigs (15-16) in their four-game series.
Brought in as a free agent to hopefully add depth to an underperforming and injured White Sox rotation, Hanson (2-2, 3.26) scattered six hits in six innings, in his first game without a significant pitch-count limitation.
“I was just kind of mixing up my pitches,” said Hanson, who struck out five in his fourth start of the year. “I threw some good cutters. My fastball was OK command-wise. The defense made some good plays behind me, and I got away with some pitches. I’ll always take six scoreless, but it wasn’t great, so I’ve still got some work to do.
Hanson, who was cut by the Texas Rangers toward the end of spring training, is not too far removed from Major League success.
From 2009-11, the former No. 4 prospect in the game (according to Baseball America) won 32 games as a starter for the Atlanta Braves, while never posting an earned run average higher than 3.60.
Injuries and changes to his mechanics over the last few seasons resulted in Hanson’s average fastball velocity dropping and his ERA heading steadily north. In 15 outings (13 starts) with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim last season, he posted a 5.42 ERA.
After being cut by the Rangers, Hanson spent two weeks without an employer. On Tuesday, he threw 94 pitches (59 for strikes) – just two less than his final start this spring – without any kind of arm pain or fatigue.
“I know he’s working on some stuff, but I think he’s done pretty well,” Phegley said. “It’s enjoyable to be back there with him (pitching). He’s got three, almost four, really good pitches that he throws for strikes. He’s going to be a quality starter.”
KNIGHTS 2, IRONPIGS 1
E — Castro, L., Wilkins. DP–Lehigh Valley 2, Charlotte 2. LOB–Lehigh Valley 8, Charlotte 4. 2B–Henson, Cedeno, R., Wilkins. HR—Murphy, Ji., Phegley. CS—Tolbert, Susdorf.
|O’Sullivan (L, 1-3)||7||5||2||1||2||2|
|Hanson (W, 2-2)||6||6||0||0||2||5|
|Thompson (H, 3)||2||3||1||1||0||4|
|Guerra (S, 2)||1||0||0||0||0||1|
HBP-Castro, L. T-2:34. A-9,055.
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