Hand Arrives Early To Majors





FORT LAUDERALDE, FLA. — Lon and Barb Hand knew they would be in Florida in early June to watch their son Brad pitch. They just didn't figure to go so far south.

Hand began the season with Double-A Jacksonville, which is where his parents arrived before continuing to Miami. On June 7, the lefthander made his major league debut at Sun Life Stadium against the Braves. Hand's parents were among 20 or so family and friends in the stands. Among his supporters: the mayor of Chaska, Minn., Hand's hometown. Barb Hand is the city's assistant finance director.

"I liked catching him," John Buck said. "He's able to locate his fastball in and out and he had good offspeed stuff. He has stuff where he can make hitters swing and miss, and movement on his fastball where he has that tail at the end."

Hand went 7-1, 3.53 in 64 innings for the Suns and was named organizational pitcher of the month for May after going 3-0, a 3.21 in 28 innings for the Suns. He took the loss in his debut despite yielding only one hit through six innings—an Alex Gonzalez solo homer, which proved the game's lone run.

What got Hand to the big leagues ahead of Triple-A prospects Elih Villanueva and Tom Koehler was improved fastball command.
 
"That was the big thing ever since I got drafted," said Hand, 21, the Marlins' second-round pick out of Chaska High in 2008. "My offspeed pitches have been there, but the biggest thing was just the command. I was leaving too many pitches over the plate."

The Marlins toned down what Hand characterized as "a very violent delivery." All three of his pitches improved as a result. He also gained greater consistency locating his fastball when the Marlins lengthened his stride.

Like many small-town high school pitchers, Hand didn't have much need for a changeup. He's developed his into an out pitch.

FISH BITES

• In his first 12 games with Triple-A New Orleans, third baseman Matt Dominguez went 8-for-43 (.186). Over his next 12 games, he went 12-for-37 (.324) with three homers.

• The Marlins plan to use Georgia Tech's Jacob Esch, who they selected in the 11th round, as a pitcher. Esch batted .319 with six home runs and 41 RBIs as the Yellow Jackets' shortstop this season, and he pitched five innings, allowing a run on four hits with two walks and six strikeouts.