Chaska cheers for Hand's MLB debut

  • Article by: PHIL MILLER , Star Tribune
  • Updated: June 7, 2011 - 12:54 PM

The lefthander will pitch his first game in the majors tonight for the Marlins.

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Brad Hand in high school

Photo: David Brewster, Star Tribune

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Brad Hand doesn't figure to be too flustered to pitch when he makes his major league debut Tuesday against the Atlanta Braves. The Chaska, Minn., native survived a dress rehearsal against the Twins in March.

"If he was ever going to be nervous, that was it -- his first time against starting major leaguers, facing his hometown Twins, lots of Minnesota people there. And he was fine," Chaska banker Lon Hand said of his son's three-inning stint in Fort Myers for the Florida Marlins on March 14. "He didn't have a three-ball count in three innings, so I don't think he'll be too jittery. He pounded the strike zone the way he's supposed to."

That's what the Marlins are looking for Tuesday, when Hand, the Star Tribune's Metro Player of the Year in 2008 for leading the Hawks into the state tournament, fills in for Florida starter Josh Johnson.

"It's pretty amazing," Lon Hand said of his son, who is in his first full season at Class AA. Rising to the major leagues just two months past his 21st birthday "was never part of Bradley's plan, but the Marlins told him this spring that he wasn't as far away as he thought. I guess you never know."

Johnson, the Marlins' ace righthander -- who coincidentally was also born in Minneapolis -- is on the disabled list because of a sore shoulder, and Florida considered four minor leaguers before settling on Hand, whose fastball reaches 93 mph. His progress this season -- he's 7-1 with a 3.53 ERA in 11 starts for Jacksonville -- convinced the Marlins to jump Hand two levels to make Tuesday's spot start.

Hand's call home Sunday night set off some airline-ticket frenzy in Chaska. His mother, Barb, sister Morgan and one set of grandparents are already in Florida to watch him pitch in the minors, but now another 20 Minnesotans, including Chaska Mayor Mark Windschitl and city administrator Matt Podhradsky, plan to fly south to be in Sun Life Stadium for Tuesday's game.

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