116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
The relief pitcher was unreal in April, just as great in May, not quite as good in June and poor in July, though a failed spot start in which he didn’t get anyone out and allowed seven runs sabotaged that month.
It’s been a mixed bag thus far in a pair of August appearances, though the 23-year-old right-hander threw two good, hitless, shutout innings in his team’s win Friday night over Beloit.
“I feel really good right now,” said the affable and mustachioed Virginia native. “I think the velocity’s going to come back a little bit toward the end of the season. In the middle of the season, I saw a big dip. More 91s and 90s than the 93s and 94s that I want. I feel good, though. Trying to get a late push and finish strong.”
Regardless of how the final month of regular-season games and ensuing Midwest League playoffs go, it’s been a turnaround season for Hanner. He has been infinitely better at a higher level than last season, when he struggled to the tune of an earned run average over 7.00 and a WHIP just shy of 2.00 for low-Class A Fort Myers.
What could go wrong, did go wrong.
“I think just coming into this year, it was about keeping it simple,” said Hanner. “I wanted to simplify everything. I know that I can throw strikes. Last year, I’d say the first month or so was pretty solid. I was transitioning into a reliever, had a tweak in my back, and when I came back from that, I was throwing harder, but I just couldn’t find the zone.”
The strike zone began eluding him, and he just couldn’t find it. He walked 34 in 41 2/3 innings and hit another eight batters.
“It was kind of like a snowball effect,” he said. “For a full month, I felt like I was just clueless out there. I was pitching more to, like, lower my ERA, than pitching for success, I would say. Stuff like that.”
Hanner has walked just 22 in 43 innings for the Kernels, who hosted Beloit on Saturday night at Veterans Memorial Stadium, given up just 30 hits and struck out 43. He essentially rides a fastball-slider combination.
“This year it’s been pitch with confidence, keep it simple. Just do what I’ve been doing for 23 years,” he said.
Hanner was a 21st-round draft pick of the Minnesota Twins in 2019 out of Patrick Henry Community College in Virginia, which is a Division II junior college program like Kirkwood in Cedar Rapids. He had committed to NCAA Division II Young Harris College in Georgia but decided to sign with the Twins and begin his professional career.
It was a clairvoyant decision considering the COVID-19 pandemic began in 2020 and wiped out the college baseball and minor league seasons. The Major League Baseball Draft that year lasted just five rounds.
“Out of Patrick Henry, I knew that I wanted to be drafted,” he said. “I would say after my first year, I actually got more interest, talking to more scouts and stuff than my sophomore year. So like in January my sophomore year, I was like ‘All right, I’ve got to find a school to go to.’
“But it all worked out. The next year it was a five-round draft (because of COVID), so I’m glad I signed when I did.”
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