KISSIMMEE, Fla. — This time last year, Tommy Hanson was a confident prospect who knew it wouldn’t be long until he made the major leagues.
After a half-season rising through the Atlanta Braves system, Hanson made his major league debut and surprised no one, going 11-4 in 21 starts for the Braves. Now, his confidence is just as high.
“I felt comfortable last year,” Hanson said Sunday. “This year, though, I know I belong. Last year I was trying to make an impression but this year I am just trying to work on improving some smaller things. I have a lot to learn, but I am picking things up every day.”
Hanson went 2 1-3 innings in his second start of the spring as the Braves beat the Houston Astros, 9-4.
Hanson gave up three runs — one earned. He struck out three and said he felt fine with his effort. Hanson said he is working on fine-tuning some things in his delivery and hoped to get in three innings.
Braves manager Bobby Cox said he didn’t think Hanson had changed a bit since last spring.
“He has the same demeanor,” Cox said. “I noticed last spring that he was a kid with confidence. He has a mental presence that connects. He knows he belongs here now.”
Hanson had some glitches in his second start. He walked one and made a throwing error during a sloppy third inning that included a passed ball and an error by second baseman Martin Prado. Cox said it was nothing to worry about.
“I know it’s just spring training,” Cox said. “I would have liked to see him go lights-out, but he stayed calm, just like he did last year. You don’t see that a lot in a kid like that.”
Hanson said he is spending the spring working on consistency with his changeup and making a quicker turn to home plate.
“I just need to tweak it a little,” Hanson said. “I need to get quicker to home to give (catcher Brian McCann) a chance. I have stuff to work on but that’s what spring training is for.”
The Braves took a 1-0 lead in the first when McCann singled to score Melky Cabrera. The Astros evened it up in the second, then scored two unearned runs in the third off Hanson and reliever Mariano Gomez.
Atlanta scored three in the bottom of the third when McCann hit a two-run double and the Braves blew it open with three more in the fourth. McCann and Troy Glaus each had three hits for the Braves.
Brian Moehler started for the Astros and went two innings. He allowed four hits and two walks, but only one run. Astros manager Brad Mills liked Moehler’s effort, but he was concerned that Moehler couldn’t close out the first inning afterer retiring the first two batters, then allowing three straight base hits.
“It was too bad, because he looked good in the first,” Mill said. “It was too bad, but I’m pleased. He’s working on some things. It’s early. It’s a long spring for everybody.”
Lance Berkman had two doubles for the Astros while Hunter Pence tripled to up his spring batting average to .571.
NOTES: Non-roster invitee 1B Freddie Freeman went 2 for 2 with a double to up his spring average to .300. Cox said Freeman is a great prospect, but Glaus is hitting .571 and is locking up first base. Freeman played Double-A ball last season. ... Rookie OF Jason Heyward was given the day off. He has reached base in all five games he’s played. ... The runs given up by Hanson marked the first given up by a Braves starter this spring. They had thrown 10 shutout innings. ... Tim Hudson, Mike Dunn, Jo-Jo Reyes, Stephen Marek, Lee Hyde, and Eric Cordier will pitch at Lakeland, Fla. today against the Detroit Tigers. Newcomer Max Scherzer will start for the Tigers.