"He's been down, with movement," said Red Sox manager Terry Francona. "He's been very encouraging. He's always exhibited a very good arm. But the last two outings, he's been down and that ball has been exploding through the strike zone with movement, that's exactly what we're looking for."
Perhaps because of nerves or just lack of experience, Hansen tended to be more straight with his fastball after his late call-up last year and his early outings in 2006.
"His fastball, when you see 96, down with movement, from the angle he can create, that's tough to hit," Francona said. "Major League hitters don't need help elevating the ball. When you can create an angle with movement with how hard he's throwing, that's really, really efficient. It's going to be hard to hit."
The main difference for Hansen these days is that he just looks comfortable in a Major League environment.
"The more he pitches, the better he's going to be," Francona said. "Part of the problem last year is we didn't know and he didn't either. Everything he did, it was the first time at the Major League level, and that's not fair. We just got in a situation where we were looking for help and we had a chance to get it with him, because his stuff was so good. It was very unfair, and we knew it. We were just trying to win.
"I think he's used it to his advantage. He went to Spring Training this year and kind of talked about how he needed to throw all three pitches, can't just get back there and fire it. So, I think it's definitely been good for him. Then he went to Double-A and Triple-A and threw multiple innings. This has been a good progression for him."
Plans for Clement: Right-hander Matt Clement (shoulder strain) threw his third side session of the week before Sunday's game against the Marlins and the Red Sox are hoping he can throw a Gulf Coast League game in Florida on Tuesday. The reason the Sox want him to pitch Tuesday? Because he'd then be able to make two Minor League outings before the All-Star break.
"We can adjust as we go," Francona said. "With the All-Star break, that sort of gets in the way, but we're not going to let it get in the way. So we're going to map out where he would go, where he would pitch, and how many pitches and how we can best get him ready to come back here."
The big issue for Clement when he went on the DL was a lack of arm strength. The Red Sox have done tests to make sure he is regaining that strength.
"Matty threw 120 feet yesterday and even according to him, that was as aggressive as he's been all year," Francona said. "I think they've been successful in getting him back to where he can start thinking about pitching. He can concentrate on making pitches but not worry about something pulling in the back or spasming and whatever."
Wily Mo in Pawtucket: Outfielder Wily Mo Pena reported to Triple-A Pawtucket on Sunday, where he will play two games at McCoy Stadium. Pena will then join the PawSox on the road and is expected to stay with them through the All-Star break.
The Red Sox are looking to get Pena some playing time at first base during his rehab stint because they don't really have a backup for Kevin Youkilis at this point.
Pena, who had the hamate bone removed from his left wrist during surgery in late May, might be ready to join the Sox right after the All-Star break, or shortly thereafter.
Coming up: A good pitching matchup will be on display Monday night at Tropicana Field when Sox right-hander Josh Beckett (10-3, 4.64) faces Rays ace lefty Scott Kazmir (9-5, 3.59).