The Pirates released Craig Hansen today. Hansen was part of the three-team trade in July 2008 that sent Jason Bay to the Red Sox and Manny Ramirez to the Dodgers. With Brandon Moss and Andy LaRoche elsewhere and Hansen on the free agent market, only Bryan Morris remains on the Pirates, meanwhile neither Bay or Ramirez remain with the Red Sox or Dodgers respectively.
Hansen’s sudden fall of grace has all the ingredients for a triumphant comeback story. A first round pick in 2005, Hansen dominated the competition in the Cape Cod League as well as at St. John’s University to inflate his stock. The Red Sox were experiencing bullpen issues at the time of the draft (closer Keith Foulke had an ERA of 6 and slash line against of .278/.350/.519 in 27 innings pitched) and popped Hansen with their mind on fast-tracking him to the big leagues.
There is the fast track and then there is the path Hansen took. After just 10 minor league appearances, Hansen would debut in the big leagues. A rough beginning to Hansen’s major league career notwithstanding, he still possessed the attributes teams look for in closers. He was considerably tall (6’6”), threw hard (with a fastball sitting in the mid-90s), and boasted a strong slider. Hansen’s issues were usually control-related.
The 2006 season allowed for more time in the minors, in which Hanson breezed through Double- and Triple-A while still managing 38 appearances out of the big league pen. He would allow 46 hits and five home runs in his timeframe and spent the entire 2007 season pitching n Triple-A. Midway through the 2008 season, he changed uniforms. From carmine to black and yellow, as is so often the case, the new threads did little to help his control. The trade happened on July 31, 2008. Since then, Hansen has appeared in 21 major league games and walked double the amount he fanned.
Some reasoning for the control issues arose during 2009 when Hansen was diagnosed with Parsonage-Turner Syndrome –a condition that causes shoulder fatigue and pain. Although Hansen attempted to pitch after undergoing treatment, but the results were not pretty. Because of his ailment, his release comes as little surprise. Maybe Hansen can straighten his health out and land with another team, but that seems to be unlikely. For now, a once promising career heads closer towards a sad conclusion.