KISSIMMEE, Fla. — The Atlanta Braves were hoping to give top pitching prospect Tommy Hanson at least one more year in their minor league system.
He may not need it.
Hanson was impressive in his second spring outing, allowing an unearned run and two hits in three innings of the Braves’ 11-2 victory Tuesday over Panama, which was playing its first World Baseball Classic tuneup.
The 22-year-old Hanson struck out the side in the first. He fanned Astros slugger Carlos Lee with a fastball away, much like he did last week when he faced the Astros in his first outing.
“My goal is to get to Atlanta and stay there,” Hanson said. “I’d like to get there as soon as possible, but I understand it may take a little time.”
Panama will play the Tigers in Lakeland on Wednesday and the Astros in Kissimmee on Thursday before leaving for Puerto Rico, where it opens the Baseball Classic on Saturday.
Although Braves manager Bobby Cox has raved about Hanson this spring, he also has proven starters Derek Lowe, Javier Vazquez, Kenshin Kawakami, Jair Jurrjens and Tom Glavine. The Braves spent the offseason rebuilding their staff, thinking Hanson needed more time to develop.
Hanson, whose fastball has been clocked at 99 mph, split time between Class A and Double-A in 2008, going a combined 11-5 with a 2.41 ERA. He had 163 strikeouts in 138 innings, throwing strikes with four different pitches. He also was the MVP of the Arizona Fall League with a 5-0 record and a 0.63 ERA.
“He’s close. He’s very close,” Cox said. “He’s fun to watch. He was good out there, again. Very impressive.”
The Braves had 14 hits against five pitchers and hardly looked threatened after their four-run second inning. Panama also had three errors.
“This is a young team and very aggressive,” Phillies catcher Carlos Ruiz said. “We have a lot of work to do, but I still like our chances.”
Manny Acosta, the Panama native who opted against playing for the national team because of his uncertain status on the Braves roster, allowed a hit on one inning.
“I felt sort of conflicted out there,” said Acosta, who pitched in 46 games last season (3-5, 3.57 ERA).
“It’s my country, but my decision to not play was because I wanted to make this team. I wanted to represent my country, but my future is in Atlanta.”
Panama starter Bruce Chen of the Texas Rangers allowed four hits and four earned runs in 1 2-3 innings. Braves minor leaguer Yeliar Castro was Panama’s second pitcher, working 2 1-3 innings and allowing two hits and one earned run.
Braves right fielder Jason Heyward, a non-roster invitee, homered in the eighth. First baseman Greg Norton, acquired from Seattle last season, had two hits.