LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Jason Heyward has said that he will remain patient even as he is starting to feel more comfortable at the plate. The Braves outfielder seemed to prove this again when he followed Thursday's hitless performance by drilling a grand slam on the first pitch he saw during Friday night's 9-5 win over the Astros.
"The guy loads the bases up and he was aggressive," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "We like to see that. I think that is something [hitting coach] Greg [Walker] has been preaching."
Walker was thrilled with what he saw as Heyward ended an 0-for-12 skid with a home run off Stephen Strasburg and a double off left-hander Tom Gorzelanny on Wednesday night. At the same time, he said the young outfielder would continue to encounter rough days like Thursday, when he struck out in his first two at-bats.
Heyward hit his first-inning grand slam against Wandy Rodriguez, and nearly went deep off the left-hander again in the third inning with a long fly ball that was caught by Jordan Schafer in center field.
"When he's right, it doesn't matter if it's a righty or a lefty," Gonzalez said.
Hanson happy to pitch without injury, rain
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Tommy Hanson was finally able to pitch without having to worry about his shoulder, concussion tests or the heavy rain that had pelted him when he had made his Grapefruit League debut five days earlier.
As Hanson worked three innings during Friday night's 9-5 win over the Astros, he was still attempting to gain comfort with his altered delivery and find more consistency with both his slider and curveball. But for the first time since his right shoulder became a burden after last year's All-Star break, the Braves pitcher felt somewhat normal.
"It just felt good pitching after five days," Hanson said. "I'm on a normal routine. I feel like I'm working and I'm excited to work. I'm excited for my bullpen days and I'm excited for my next start, because I am working on things and I feel like I'm moving in the right [direction]."
Hanson understandably felt much more comfortable than he had five days earlier, when he was pelted by rain as he pitched in a game for the first time since Aug. 6. His outing began with Jordan Schafer's leadoff double, and was further blemished by Travis Buck's solo home run. But in the process of allowing two earned runs and five hits in three innings, he seemed to find reason for encouragement.
"It was just another day working, and I feel like I'm on my way to getting better," Hanson said. "It's just going to get better from here."
Hanson's shoulder has not been a problem and he has had no setbacks since being cleared to resume normal activities after suffering a concussion in a one-car accident on Feb. 20.
"His arm is good and the stuff with the concussion is good," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "It was nice to see."
Wilson confident he won't start season on DL
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Jack Wilson remains confident that he will not begin the regular season on the disabled list. In fact, the Braves infielder believes he might be just a week away from compiling plate appearances in Minor League Spring Training games.
"We're insanely ahead of schedule," Wilson said. "Even though it's going so fast, we still want to make sure I'm 100 percent. But it feels comfortable. It's nice, definitely a surprise."
Wilson suffered a similar calf strain while playing for the Pirates in Atlanta during the first week of the 2008 season. A setback forced him to miss a little more than two months with that ailment. But the veteran infielder believes his current rehab process will prevent such a setback.
While the Braves are encouraged by Wilson's progress, they will not rush him back and create the possibility that he could end up missing more time than necessary. Thus, the club is not ready to say for sure he will be ready by Opening Day.
"We've got to be careful, because if we push him too much, he could have a setback and we'll be back to square one," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "I think it happened with [Jimmy] Rollins a few years ago."
Tim Hudson experienced no problems while throwing two sets of 25 pitches during a bullpen session on Friday afternoon. Hudson has been pain-free in both of the bullpen sessions he has completed since the Braves medical staff cleared him to begin throwing off the mound again this week.
Josh Wilson, who has been sidelined since March 7 with a sore hamstring, could return to action on Sunday. Wilson entered camp with the hope of beginning the regular season as a utility infielder for Atlanta.
Tom Glavine and Gene Garber are both scheduled to serve as special guest instructors next week. Glavine will arrive on Sunday and Garber on Monday.
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.