Young Braves pitcher continues to impress

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 might 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 struck out 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 today 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 off-season 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."

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