A 22nd-round Draft selection out of Riverside Community College in California in 2005, Tommy Hanson quickly established himself as one of the top pitching prospects in the Braves' Minor League system. The 6-foot-6 right-hander from Tulsa, Okla., has been fulfilling that promise since joining Atlanta in June, going 9-2 with a 3.12 ERA in his first 14 starts while limiting opponents to a .239 average. Hanson, who turns 23 later this week, recently answered some questions from MLBPLAYERS.com:
MLBPLAYERS.com: How are you enjoying this rookie season so far?
Hanson: It's been so exciting. Ever since getting called up, I've been in a place I've wanted to be my whole life. I'm here to help my team win some games, and I know if I keep doing that the experience will only be better. Going forward, it's about working hard and learning what I can.
MLBPLAYERS.com: How do you think you have performed out on the mound?
Hanson: I'm happy with my results on the field so far. Obviously I know I have so much to learn. Every day I'm working on something new. If I keep that mindset, everything should be fine.
MLBPLAYERS.com: In your debut, you allowed seven runs -- six of which were earned -- over six innings. How do you evaluate your debut?
Hanson: I started out good, but the second and third time around the order I got hit a little bit. It was something I wanted to get over with. I had a lot of family and friends there, and I was experiencing some jitters. I chalk it up to a learning experience.
MLBPLAYERS.com: What mistakes did you make?
Hanson: I think in my debut I left a few too many fastballs up. Those pitches got too much of the plate and they got hit for home runs. I felt that I threw the ball well, but you can't make those mistakes up here.
MLBPLAYERS.com: You then reeled off five straight wins. What was the difference?
Hanson: I continued to feel good. I think it has been the learning process of how to attack hitters. I am still learning so much about pitching.
MLBPLAYERS.com: You are 9-2 this season, but even in the two losses you have thrown the ball well, right?
Hanson: I feel like, since I've been up here, I've thrown the ball well. But in this game, there's always room for improvement. I'm trying to look at the big picture in terms of what I'm doing right and what I'm doing wrong. I'm trying to make the most of this opportunity and minimize mistakes.
MLBPLAYERS.com: You've only faced a couple lineups more than once at this point. When you pitched against the Brewers the second time, for example, did you sense they made any adjustments to you?
Hanson: I think it went both ways. They knew then what I threw, and they knew a little bit more of what to expect. I also had a better idea of how to go about attacking them from hitter to hitter. I felt comfortable the second time, through, so that's a good sign.
MLBPLAYERS.com: For fans who have not seen you pitch, what are some of your strengths?
Hanson: My whole pitching mindset is to go right after hitters, to attack them. I don't like to fall behind hitters, and I don't like to walk hitters. It is about making them put the ball in play.
MLBPLAYERS.com: What pitches do you throw?
Hanson: I throw a fastball, slider, curveball and changeup.
MLBPLAYERS.com: Can you pinpoint one or two highlights you have enjoyed while wearing this Braves uniform?
Hanson: The experience on the whole really -- it's all been a blast. I haven't experienced a low point. I love coming to the ballpark each and every day. I'm excited to keep working hard.
MLBPLAYERS.com: You throw to two veteran catchers in Brian McCann and David Ross. How do they help you?
Hanson: Both guys are unbelievable. I couldn't be happier. They're easy to throw to, easy to talk to, and they both do a great job back there. They understand what I'm trying to do. They know good pitch sequences in addition to knowing what I should throw. It's great to pitch to Mac, a four-time All-Star, and to David. I threw to him a lot, too, during Spring Training.
MLBPLAYERS.com: Off the field, as a young guy on this club, how have you approached that aspect of the job?
Hanson: I've been pretty quiet. That's not how I am normally, but I think I might be the youngest guy on the team. I'm learning the ropes. I didn't really know what to expect when I got here, but everyone has been awesome. They've welcomed me and I feel like we're in this together.
MLBPLAYERS.com: What's the best advice you have gotten from an older player?
Hanson: They talk to me if I make a mistake. They tell what I should do to correct it.
Jeff Moeller is a freelance writer based in Los Angeles.
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.