Tommy Hanson had to wade through missing the last two months of last season with a shoulder injury, and his Spring Training got off to a late start when he sustained a concussion in a car wreck on the way to reporting, but that did not stop him from being named the Opening Day starter for the Atlanta Braves on Saturday.
Fredi Gonzalez announced that the 25-year-old Hanson will make his first Opening Day start against the New York Mets at Citi Field on April 6.
"It's definitely a good feeling," Hanson said. "I was excited about it. I'm definitely glad I'm pitching Opening Day. It's an honor."
With Tim Hudson out until late April, Hanson and Jair Jurrjens were the favorites to win the job.
"I actually didn't expect to start Opening Day," Hanson said. "I thought JJ would. Either way, JJ is going to get the home opener. So that's pretty cool too."
It also turns out that Hanson's concussion nearly put him out of the running for the coveted spot.
"We were kind of leaning [toward Hanson] the whole time, before spring started," Gonzalez said. "Then not knowing with the concussion whether we could line him up, but so far everything has gone well."
Hanson will be the youngest Opening Day starter for the Braves since a 23-year-old John Smoltz took the mound for Atlanta to start the 1991 season.
Gonzalez also announced the first four spots of the starting rotation on Saturday. Jurrjens will throw the second game of the year on April 7, and Mike Minor will be utilized against the heavily left-handed Mets lineup for the series finale April 8. Brandon Beachy will then pitch the first game of the series with the Houston Astros on April 9.
Because the Braves will only need to use the fifth spot three times before Hudson returns from offseason back surgery, Gonzalez has not yet announced whether Randall Delgado or Julio Teheran will start the season in the big league rotation.
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