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12/17/11 5:12 PM EST

Hanson building strength, confidence this winter

Braves right-hander aims to leave injury woes behind by spring

ATLANTA -- Tommy Hanson understands why the shoulder pain that sidelined him for most of this season's final two months has caused concern. But the Braves right-hander believes the discomfort was a product of a back ailment he has battled since the middle portion of the 2010 season.

Having had a chance to rest and strengthen both his back and shoulder this offseason, Hanson is approaching 2012 confident.

Hanson plans to begin playing "light" catch this week and believes he will be ready to begin increasing his effort levels after the New Year.

"If I had to go [to Spring Training] right now, I think I would feel pretty confident," Hanson said. "I don't think it will be a problem. I think the biggest thing for me was the rest. Then once I started strengthening it, it felt a lot better."

Hanson went to the Braves' Spring Training headquarters in Florida in October to spend a month with the club's Minor League physical therapist, Troy Jones. The focus to strengthen both the back and shoulder muscles has given the 25-year-old hurler a greater sense that he will be at full strength by the time Spring Training arrives.

"I think the reason my shoulder was hurting was my back," Hanson said. "I think it's something I just have to maintain, and I'll be fine. I don't see it as something that will be a problem."

A deviated facet joint caused Hanson to begin feeling back discomfort midway through the 2010 season. While not a serious ailment, it created inflammation that gradually placed greater strain on his shoulder and had a debilitating effect this year.

Hanson missed two weeks while on the disabled list in June, and he allowed at least five earned runs in three of his first five starts after the All-Star break. He went back on the DL on Aug. 6 and did not pitch the remainder of the season.

"Your body automatically guards whatever is bothering you," Hanson said. "So I think whenever I would pump up and try to throw something by somebody, I think I was just putting more pressure on my shoulder."

Hanson entered the All-Star break with the National League's fourth-best ERA (2.44). His absence, combined with that of Jair Jurrjens -- who was also injured after the break -- factored into the collapse the Braves suffered after entering September with an 8 1/2-game lead in the NL Wild Card race.

"You never want to be hurt," Hanson said. "If something is going to go wrong, you want it to be something like that. It [stinks], because it doesn't sound like it's a big deal, but it was hurting. Then I'm sitting there, and we're not winning games and our lead in the Wild Card was dwindling. It wasn't fun all the way around."

Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.