Hanson doesn't let weather rain on his parade
In first game since August, righty feels good after short start
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Tommy Hanson's right shoulder is fine and it has been more than two weeks since he has experienced any symptoms of a concussion. Now the Braves' right-hander would simply like to experience something resembling a normal start.
Given the misfortune Hanson has encountered since last year's All-Star break, he was not shocked to take the mound against the Blue Jays on Sunday afternoon with a heavy rain shower pelting him. This was his first appearance in a game since Aug. 6 and it proved to be shorter than expected. A rain delay forced him to end his outing with two runners on base and nobody out in the second inning.
"The first inning was a lot more fun than the second," Hanson said. "I was getting balls that were soaked and wet and the mound was drenched. But it was still fun. When I was out there, I was just laughing about it because I was glad to be back out there on the mound. It was fun to compete again. It was one of those conditions where I didn't really care what happened because it didn't matter. It was almost like I was a little kid playing in the rain again."
With the miserable conditions, the Braves were certainly not concerned about the fact that Hanson allowed a two-run homer to Jeff Mathis and issued consecutive walks before rain halted play in the second.
Manager Fredi Gonzalez was more interested in the improvements Hanson has made since altering his delivery in January. The alterations were made to lessen the strain on his right shoulder, which sidelined him for the final two months last year, and to improve his defense against potential basestealers.
The Braves timed his delivery to the plate at 1.4 seconds on Sunday. With the much more exaggerated hitch he had in his delivery, Hanson was consistently timed at 1.8 last year.
"In baseball terms, that tells a runner, 'Yes, you can go,' and that's not so easy anymore," Gonzalez said. "You eliminate the mediocre baserunners when you go 1.3 or 1.4. The guys like [Jose] Reyes and your top-tier basestealers -- Michael Bourn -- that time is still go for them. But you eliminate a lot of the average baserunners."
Hanson's new delivery still includes a hitch that is not nearly as exaggerated as it had been and it occurs before his arm passes his shoulder. His previous delivery included a pause when his arm was perpendicular with his shoulder.
After being sidelined for more than a week because of a concussion suffered in a Feb. 20 auto accident, Hanson said he immediately regained comfort with this new delivery.
"I felt great," Hanson said. "Obviously, my command was a little bit off, but my body felt really good. I made some good pitches at times. I just wasn't as consistent as I needed to be. But that was my first game and my body felt good. That was the key for me."
Hudson feels he's ready for 'pen sessions
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Tim Hudson has spent the past week lightly going through the motions of his delivery while throwing off the bullpen mound.
After returning to Atlanta for a scheduled checkup on Tuesday, the right-hander believes he will be cleared to begin completing normal bullpen sessions.
Hudson underwent a Nov. 30 surgical procedure to fuse the L5 and S1 vertebrae. Doctors will evaluate him Tuesday to make sure that the bone fusing these vertebrae is now solid. The 36-year-old veteran pitcher has not experienced any recent back discomfort. He will likely be sidelined until at least early May.
"I don't feel like there has been any setback since the last time I saw the doctor, which means things are still healing up," Hudson said. "If it would have gotten real sore or something felt different, there might have been a setback. But there wasn't any of that."
Uggla using aggresssive approach at plate
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Dan Uggla spent the first 11 years of his professional career with the belief that he should track as many pitches as possible during the exhibition season.
But after watching the aggressive approach Chipper Jones and Brian McCann took during Spring Training last year, the Braves' second baseman entered this year's Grapefruit League with the belief that he needs to time the fastball before worrying about getting a feel for secondary pitches.
"I'm not trying to worry about going deep into counts in the spring," Uggla said. "It took me 12 years to figure out, it might be more important to get on time with that fastball. That's what I saw Chipper and Mac doing last year. They're going up there hacking at the first or second pitch they see. They both got off to good starts. I was like, 'Man, you know what, they've got something figured out.'"
Uggla had been under the impression that to get a feel for changeups and breaking pitches, he needed to track as many pitches as possible. This led to him regularly falling behind in the count during Spring Training.
While recording four hits -- including two doubles and a homer -- in his first 13 at-bats this spring, Uggla has quickly gained comfort with his more aggressive approach.
"You're still going to see [secondary pitches] because you're not going to put every fastball in play," Uggla said. "So you're still going to go deep in some counts, draw some walks and stuff like that. That's just a more seasoned-like mentality and real game situations stuff. You're trying to do real damage with that fastball."
• Infielder Jack Wilson has been encouraged with the improvement he has realized in his strained right calf over the past couple of weeks. Wilson thinks he could begin playing exhibition games in about a week and avoid beginning the regular season on the disabled list.
• Jason Heyward played center field during the split-squad game against the Blue Jays in Dunedin on Sunday. The Braves want to get a better feel for his ability to play the position. If he provides confidence that he could serve as a temporary backup for Michael Bourn, the club would gain more flexibility with its roster.
• Kris Medlen had warmed up in the bullpen and was ready to pitch two innings before Sunday's split-squad game at Disney was called because of rain. He will likely now pitch on Tuesday against the Cardinals.
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.