Angels’ Tommy Hanson struggles to put base stealers on hold
Angels right-hander Tommy Hanson will start the series finale against the Seattle Mariners on Thursday night. The Angels hope the Mariners don’t turn the game into a track meet.
Opponents have been successful on 14 of 15 stolen-base attempts in the 45 2/3 innings Hanson has pitched, which is hardly a surprise. Because of a pause in his motion when he cocks his arm behind his head, Hanson has difficulty holding runners on, often leaving catchers little or no chance to throw them out.
“As long as I can remember, it’s been hard for me to hold runners effectively and make a pitch,” said Hanson, who is 4-2 with a 3.94 earned run average in eight starts in a season that has been interrupted by stints on the bereavement and restricted lists.
“I try to do the step-offs and pick-offs. I try to keep them close and give the catchers a chance. But it’s something I’ve struggled with, to find that happy medium between finding a comfort zone with my delivery and being quicker to the plate.”
Though Hanson has made only about half as many starts this season as most pitchers, the 14 stolen bases off him were tied for most in the major leagues after his last start, a 6-2 win over the New York Yankees on Saturday. Opponents have averaged 31 stolen bases a season against Hanson.
In the seventh inning Saturday, Ichiro Suzuki led off with a single and stole second and third, though he was stranded there.
“There’s no blind eye out there — we’ve all seen it,” pitching coach Mike Butcher said. “You’re always looking to improve, but sometimes it’s hard to break a habit of someone who’s done things a certain way their whole career.”
Hanson’s inability to hold runners on effectively probably hurts him — and the Angels — most later in close games.
“Any time there’s a guy on base deeper in a close game, it can affect a lot of things you do,” Butcher said. “Your bullpen is used a little differently. You might need to bring somebody in there who can control the running game more. You don’t want guys to steal bases at will.”
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