Over the past two weeks, there have been two extremely encouraging reports out of the Atlanta Braves world that should make fans excited and hopeful for good things in 2012. The new weekend uniforms is not what should get fans excited, though I do like them. The good news comes about two young players that are hoping to rebound in 2012.
Tommy Hanson made only 5 starts after the All Star break and was not the same pitcher as he was the first half of the year. He had shoulder pain and never was able to get rid of it. He missed most of the last two months of the year. His absence did not help this team during the September slide.
He has been working all offseason with trainers in Florida and Atlanta to strengthen his shoulder. Here are some quotes from Mark Bowman that give hope that he will be able to have a big 2012 season:
“It feels better now than it did [in December],” Hanson said. “I’m definitely a lot more optimistic now than I was even last month.”
Dr. James Andrews evaluated him in September and only found normal wear and tear around the shoulder.”
I will admit that Hanson’s shoulder problems have been something that has scared me. The reality about shoulder problems is that if surgery is required, there is no guarantee that the player will be able to come back the way they were before the surgery. Shoulder surgery is a huge question mark in baseball. Tommy John surgery is one that there is a high success rate for pitchers. Shoulder surgery is much more unpredictable.
The other piece of good news comes about Jason Heyward. David O’Brien reported that Heyward has been working with new hitting coach Greg Walker, assistant hitting coach Scott Fletcher, as well as Chipper Jones. Heyward has made corrections to his swing, which he made alterations during his struggles in 2012 and to help him play through injuries.
“This is what I was concerned with: When he got to spring training in 2010, and into the season in 2010, when the ball jumped off his bat it was a sound and sight unlike anything you had ever heard or seen before,” Jones said. “And I didn’t see that at all last year. And it’s due to some of the things that he was doing mechanically.
“To answer your question, weight is not an issue with him. The ball is jumping off the bat now close to what it was in spring training 2010. He’s got some more in there; he’s still making some adjustments and it’s a slow process. As Tiger Woods will tell you, you go through a swing change, it takes some time. But he’s starting to get it and he’s starting to get results.”
This makes me very excited. The thing that I found most interesting about Heyward’s struggles last season was that when he struggled there were so many people that were pointing out that his swing had “flaws.” What baffles me is the fact that in his rookie year, there were no concerns that he had “flaws” in his swing. No one said anything about “holes” or “flaws” in his swing. If you know of anyone that said anything about that, I welcome a friendly debate. I remember reading something last year how Freddie Freeman‘s swing had always been better than Heyward’s and that it was “hole proof.” First off, I want to say that I hope that is the case. Secondly, I think it is ridiculous. No one said this stuff before last season.
One more thing from Chipper’s interview with O’Brien:
“So we’re getting there. He’s 90 percent back. When he gets this hinge [wrists] right here, where he gets a little takeway — a little separation, we call it, between step and hands — he’ll be all the way back.”
For Braves’ fans ready for Spring Training and baseball to return to the forefront of the sporting world, this news is music to our ears. We have 11 days until pitchers and catchers report.