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Adrenaline purged, Hanson's ready to dominate

Updated: June 12, 2009, 1:49 PM ET
When Tommy Hanson walked off the mound after making his first major league start this past Sunday, he went into the Braves' weight room and simply laid on the floor, exhausted. It wasn't until after he finished pitching when he realized how much the adrenaline that surged through his body that day had affected him.

"I was so amped up," Hanson said. "I've never gotten tired once in my life from pitching. I never get tired. But after that, everything felt tired -- my legs, my body."

If it's possible to be completely dominant while allowing seven runs in six innings, Hanson managed to do it. For the first three innings of his start, Hanson completely overwhelmed Milwaukee, throwing his fastball in the mid-90s, commanding his slider and his curveball and controlling the Brewers' at-bats.

But during the middle of the game, fatigue began to set in as the tidal wave of adrenaline drained out of Hanson's body. "I didn't feel fresh anymore," Hanson said. His fastball started drifting on him, and the Brewers mashed three homers, two of them by All-Star Ryan Braun. The Braves won the game 8-7 after scoring three runs in the bottom of the eighth, and Hanson earned a no-decision.

As Hanson prepared for his second start, which he will make Friday night, he didn't come away thinking he needed to make any significant adjustments. "I don't see there being a glaring issue I need to work on," Hanson said. "I think I'll feel a lot better with my next outing."

Hanson speaks with self-assuredness, with a purpose, as if he knows exactly what he needs to do to be successful, as if he completely understands the work that is required, as if he knows he can accomplish his goals if he applies himself.

Roger McDowell, the Braves' pitching coach, sees this. He spoke with Hanson during his bullpen session about the need to focus on every pitch -- the need to execute every pitch. "He's a very intelligent young man," McDowell said. "Even in spring training, he had a different kind of presence."

As McDowell watches Hanson, is he reminded of anyone? "The guy that probably I've been around at an even younger age was Doc," said McDowell, referring to Dwight Gooden. "He was the same, in the way he knew he belonged, and every fifth day, he knew he was going to kick someone's butt."

Houston sell-off?

There has been speculation of late about when the Houston Astros might start to unload players. "We're not there yet," Astros general manager Ed Wade said. "We went through this last year." And you remember what happened: The Astros stunned the baseball world by trading for veterans such as Randy Wolf. From there, the Astros went on a big run and nearly made it to the National League playoffs. So no, Wade is not close to making a decision on whether Houston, now five games out of first place, will be a buyer or a seller.

But Wade indicated that if he decides not to be a seller, that doesn't necessarily mean he will be a buyer. The Astros reached beyond their financial parameters this spring to add Ivan Rodriguez and Jeff Keppinger, and they are not likely to add much salary -- if any at all -- before the trade deadline, Wade hinted.

Many general managers are echoing this thought these days, and it's a major reason many GMs think the trade market this summer generally will be greatly depressed. "If we turn it around, it will probably be with the players we have," Wade said.

Hours after Wade spoke, Geoff Blum -- an expert in walk-off hits -- got his second in two nights, Jesus Ortiz writes. Houston has won four consecutive series.

During the win, Michael Bourn made what was arguably one of the best catches of the year.

The Contreras comeback

Jose Contreras blew out his Achilles tendon on Aug. 9 and faced both a long rehabilitation and a long absence from the game. So during spring training, as White Sox pitching coach Don Cooper groggily arrived for work in the early-morning darkness at the team's training camp outside Phoenix, what he saw stunned him: Contreras was running sprints on a field long before any other player arrived. Cooper was amazed by Contreras' physical progress, if not his work ethic, which he always has respected. "If success goes on how hard you work, then he'll have success," Cooper said.

Contreras was well ahead of schedule in his rehabilitation from his injury, but Cooper wonders in retrospect whether Contreras really was ready to pitch in the big leagues at the beginning of the season. After six starts, Contreras had an 8.19 ERA.

"Looking back on it, the real miracle was that his arm was ready," Cooper said Wednesday over the phone. "We were all so happy to see him. But looking back on it, we probably had him back too early. He just wasn't ready with his touch and feel and command of all his pitches. … He just didn't have enough bullets in his gun."

Contreras met with Cooper and manager Ozzie Guillen after his start on May 8, when his demotion from the rotation had to happen. Given the option of trying to work through his problems out of the bullpen, Contreras lobbied to go to the minors -- and needed to pass through waivers -- so that he could pitch as a starter.

Contreras threw more than 100 pitches in every start in the minors so that he could work on the feel of his forkball. He returned to the White Sox earlier this week.

Cooper could see right away that Contreras had benefited from his time in the minors. "You could see immediately that his rhythm and tempo were back," Cooper said. "The confidence was oozing out of him." Contreras allowed just one hit in eight innings and no runs against the Tigers on Monday, and he'll make his second start since his call-up against the Brewers on Saturday.

The White Sox pulled out a walk-off win Thursday, but Joe Cowley writes that this cannot mask a mediocre homestand. Having a good Contreras back can't hurt.

Boston's depth charge

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