Spring training: Jason Heyward's grand slam highlights Atlanta Braves' win against Houston Astros

March 17, 2012 

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Jason Heyward appears to be regaining his power stroke, and that’s good news for the Braves.

Homering for the second time in three games, Heyward hit a grand slam in the first inning off Wandy Rodriguez as Atlanta beat the Houston Astros 9-5 on Friday night.

Heyward, runner-up for NL Rookie of the Year in 2010, struggled last season. Bothered by a sore shoulder, he hit just .227 with 14 homers and 42 RBIs.

But the left-handed hitter rededicated himself while rehabbing his shoulder over the winter and came to camp about 20 pounds lighter.

“He had a great at-bat,” Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said of the grand slam. “He was aggressive and that is what we want to see.”

The drive to right-center field came off a tough lefty. Rodriguez was 11-11 with a 3.49 ERA last year and will be the Astros’ starter on opening day this season.

“When he’s right, he can hit any lefty,” Gonzalez said of Heyward. “It doesn’t matter who he is facing.”

Instead of waiting and possibly falling behind in the count, Heyward jumped on the first-pitch fastball and sent it a long way.

“I tried to throw a two-seamer, but it didn’t move and stayed in,” Rodriguez said. “I know he has power. He hit that one a long way.”

Rodriguez hadn’t pitched in 10 days because of a rainout and allowed five hits and a walk after two quick outs in the five-run first inning. He left with one out in the fourth after Michael Bourn, serving as the Braves’ designated hitter, followed a walk with a two-run homer against his old team.

“He took that DH to his head a little,” Gonzalez said of his speedy center fielder.

Tommy Hanson, making his spring debut after having his first start cut shot by rain, pitched three innings and gave up two runs, including a homer by Travis Buck. The right-hander struck out three, walked none and gave up five hits.

Hanson, who was 11-7 with a 3.60 ERA last season, didn’t pitch after Aug. 6 because of shoulder woes and got a delayed start this spring after sustaining a concussion in an auto mishap at the start of camp.

“Overall, it was OK,” Hanson said of his outing. “I made my pitches at times and sometimes I didn’t. … It’s early. It’s just going to get better. … I’m back on a routine now and I’m excited about that.”

Hanson took the mound in the rain against the Blue Jays last Sunday and worked into the second inning before the game was called.

“Tommy was fine,” Gonzalez said. “His delivery was good and he was faster to the plate.”

Braves lefty relievers Eric O’Flaherty and Jonny Venters each worked an inning and allowed a run. Brian McCann had two hits for Atlanta, raising his average to .292.

Notes: Tim Hudson, coming off back surgery, threw his second bullpen session Friday. He is expected to spend the first month of the season on the disabled list. … Rookie reliever Arodys Vizcaino, one of the Braves’ top prospects, will have his ailing elbow examined by Dr. James Andrews on Monday. He hasn’t pitched since feeling soreness in the Braves’ exhibition opener on March 3. … The Braves have split-squad games today. Brandon Beachy will start the home game against Toronto, with Kris Medlen taking the mound against the Mets in Port St. Lucie.

Houston Atlanta

ab r h bi ab r h bi

J.Schafer cf 3 2 2 0 Bourn dh 4 1 1 2

Ruggiano lf 1 1 0 0 E.Gattis ph-dh 1 0 0 0

Bourgeois lf-cf 4 0 0 1 Prado lf 3 0 1 0

Shuck cf 1 0 0 0 Durango lf-cf 1 1 1 0

T.Buck dh 3 1 2 2 C.Jones 3b 3 1 1 0

Cust ph-dh 1 0 0 0 J.Terdosavch 3b 1 1 0 0

Ca.Lee 1b 3 0 1 0 McCann c 3 1 2 0

Paredes 3b 1 0 0 1 Yepez c 2 0 2 1

Bogusevic rf 4 0 0 0 Freeman 1b 4 1 1 1

F.Martinez rf 0 0 0 0 E.Mejia 1b 1 0 0 0

Lowrie ss 4 1 1 0 J.Parraz cf-rf 2 1 1 0

Bixler ss 0 0 0 0 Heyward rf 4 1 1 4

Wallace 3b-1b 3 0 2 0 Constanza lf 0 0 0 0

S.Moore 1b 1 0 0 0 Sutton 2b 3 1 2 0

J.Castro c 3 0 0 0 A.Simmons ss 4 0 0 0

Corporan c 0 0 0 0

Altuve 2b 3 0 1 0

Thurston 2b 1 0 0 0

Totals 36 5 9 4 Totals 36 9 13 8

Houston 101 110 100--5

Atlanta 500 200 02x--9

E--J.Parraz (1). DP--Houston 1, Atlanta 1. LOB--Houston 6, Atlanta 8. 2B--J.Schafer (3), Ca.Lee (4), Sutton (1). HR--T.Buck (1), Bourn (1), Heyward (2). SB--J.Schafer 2 (2), T.Buck (1), Durango (1).

IP H R ER BB SO

Houston

W.Rodriguez L,1-1 31/3 8 7 7 2 0

Sosa 12/3 2 0 0 1 1

D.Carpenter 1 0 0 0 0 0

J.Valdez 1 1 0 0 0 2

W.Wright 1 2 2 2 1 1

Atlanta

Hanson W,1-0 3 5 2 2 0 3

O’Flaherty 1 2 1 1 0 0

Venters 1 2 1 1 0 1

Y.Flande 2 0 1 0 2 2

D.Hughes 1 0 0 0 0 1

J.Chapman 1 0 0 0 0 2

HBP--by J.Valdez (J.Parraz). WP--W.Wright. Balk--Venters.

Umpires--Home, Greg Gibson; First, Lance Barksdale; Second, Sam Holbrook; Third, Larry Vanover.

T--2:54. A--6,690 (9,500).

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