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Alen Hanson thought something was amiss Sunday when he checked Triple-A Indianapolis' lineup card and did not see his name. Not only was he the Indians' regular second baseman, Hanson also had three hits Saturday. What could it be?
He quickly found out.
During a pregame meeting, manager Dean Treanor announced Hanson was joining the big club for the first time to fill the roster spot of left fielder Starling Marte, who is on paternity leave.
“Unless something goes categorically sideways, it's three days,” manager Clint Hurdle said. “It's in and out.”
No matter. Seven years after he signed with the Pirates, Hanson was ecstatic to be here.
“This is sincerely a dream come true,” he said Monday, smiling broadly, through team interpreter Mike Gonzalez. “Especially to make it to make it to the big leagues with the team that helped me become a better baseball player.”
Hanson, 23, was savoring the moment, which might be fleeting. Despite making All-Star teams in four leagues during the last four seasons, he generally is ranked on the fringe of the club's top 10 prospects (Baseball America has him 11th). It might be telling that it took this long for Hanson to arrive.
Nevertheless, Hanson's family is equally as thrilled. He said when he phoned his mom in the Dominican Republic, the call abruptly ended after he broke the news. Gonzalez said Hanson “didn't hear from her for 10 minutes and started freaking out.”
It turned out, Gonzalez said, “she actually hung up the phone and started celebrating.”
Hanson, hitting .288 with two homers, 10 RBIs and seven steals in 27 games at Indy, signed with the Pirates in 2009 at age 16 and began his professional career the next season. Mainly a shortstop, Hanson converted to a second baseman during the spring. He also has been learning to play left field. Hurdle called that “a work in progress.”
To fans of a certain age, the 1991 World Series won by the Minnesota Twins over the Atlanta Braves in seven games seems far less than a quarter-century removed.
Which makes it somewhat jarring to look at the current standings and the historically awful seasons both teams are enduring. The Twins were 10-26 entering play Monday. The Braves were worse, 9-27 before starting their four-game series with the Pirates at PNC Park.
You'd never know it, however, by the relaxed and smiling demeanor of Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez before the game. A big reason is the franchise has something to look forward to besides the opening of glitzy SunTrust Park next season.
The only club with all five starters age 25 or less, the Braves have the youngest starting rotation in baseball. All have given cause for hope.
“I have been really proud of the way our young starters have been going deep in ballgames,” Gonzalez said. “It's fun to come to the ballpark knowing you've got a chance to have one of these starters go seven or eight innings.”
With the trade of veteran Jhoulys Chacin to the Los Angeles Angels last week, 25-year-old Julio Teheran is the elder statesman with 108 big league starts. The other four members of the rotation — Mike Foltynewicz, Matt Wisler, Aaron Blair and Monday's starter, Williams Perez — have a combined 103 starts.
In his previous outing, Perez, a 6-foot, 240-pound right-hander, limited the Philadelphia Phillies to two hits in eight innings. Scoring a total of eight runs over the weekend, the Braves dropped two of three to defending world champion Kansas City, but Teheran, Foltynewicz and Wisler posted a combined 1.21 ERA in 22 1⁄3 innings with 16 strikeouts and three walks.
“They have a nice asset over there in young starting pitching,” Hurdle said. “They're big arms. They're quality arms. They all have skill sets that are gonna play. At the same time, they're young arms.”
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