Hansen enters White Sox spring camp healthy

Pitching prospect out to regain form from 2017 breakout season

February 17th, 2019
KODAK, Tenn. — The Birmingham Barons took on the Tennessee Smokies in Double-A Southern League action at Smokies Stadium on Friday, July 13, 2018.Danny Parker

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Alec Hansen doesn't really have any expectations for the 2019 season, and that mindset is not exactly a bad thing for the 6-foot-7 right-handed hurler.
It was Hansen's target of reaching the White Sox at some point in 2018, after leading the Minors with 191 strikeouts in '17, contributing to a dreadful personal campaign pretty much any way it's analyzed.
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"I was just trying to get through it," Hansen told MLB.com concerning his ultimate description of last year. "I wasn't out there trying to dominate. I was kind of feeling my way through it, trying to get through the season, trying to get to this year. I know it kind of sounds bad, but I was just kind of a wreck last year."
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Hansen, 24, reached as high as No. 54 on the MLB Pipeline Top 100 prospects list but fell out in the 2018 midseason re-rank. The current No. 10 White Sox prospect was 0-4 with a 6.56 ERA over nine starts with Double-A Birmingham, and his combined numbers including five starts with Class A Advanced Winston-Salem left him with 55 strikeouts and 59 walks over 51 1/3 innings.
These issues were rooted in injury, with Hansen sidelined by forearm soreness after his one Cactus League outing as part of big league camp last Spring Training. He described himself as stiff, swollen and could hardly throw at that time.
But Hansen takes it back to the offseason following his 2017 breakout. It was a breakout including a 4.35 ERA over two starts for Birmingham in the prospect-rich Southern League, leading Hansen to believe he needed to do more to make that jump to the Majors.
"So, I went through in my mind everything I could do to get better physically," Hansen said. "Just becoming a better athlete, maybe that would translate into being able to perform better at the Double-A level. I was like, 'I have to step my game up,' and I did all that. It all just kind of backfired, but just knowing that I still haven't put it together in Double-A, I haven't really had success there yet, is what's frustrating."
"We hope this is just a tremendous learning experience for him," White Sox director of player development Chris Getz said. "This isn't a unique situation where guys maybe put a little too much [pressure] on themselves and therefore, they have a tough time meeting those expectations. They get frustrated with themselves, and they can kind of snowball into some other things."
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Pain re-occurred for Hansen this past December, only this time in his shoulder when he started throwing in his Oklahoma City hometown. After it didn't go away for two weeks, Hansen got in touch with the White Sox and came to Arizona five weeks ago.
"At first I was a little hesitant," Hansen said. "I was like, 'Man, I don't want to leave this early. Spring Training is still two months away,' but as of today, I'm glad I came down here. I'm glad they made me come down here. I'm right on track right now. Maybe I might be a week behind everyone else, but the pain is gone."
"We've identified some exercise and corrective things to help him work through everything, feel healthy, stay healthy, so he can have a productive season," Getz said. "It's nice to be around an Alec Hansen that is confident in the work he's putting in. Hopefully it transforms him on the mound."
There was a time when future projections had Hansen as part of the top three in the White Sox rotation. That projection took a hit last season, with a velocity and confidence dip on the mound.
Even without lofty expectations for 2019, that big league dream lives on for Hansen.
"Obviously, I still want to play in the Major Leagues, otherwise why else would I be here?" Hansen said. "But I try not to look too far ahead. Last year, I had the goal and look what happened. I just want to get back to where I was in '17 no matter what level I'm at."