10/04/2004 2:03 PM ET
Hampton to start Game 2
Thomson slated for Saturday start in Houston
By Mark Bowman / MLB.com
|Mike Hampton will now start Game 2 of the NLDS, with John Thomson tentatively the Game 3 starter. (Gregory Smith/AP)
ATLANTA -- With some uncertainty still surrounding John Thomson's strained left side, Braves manager Bobby Cox has opted to alter his original starting rotation for the upcoming Division Series.
During an optional team workout on Monday afternoon at Turner Field, Cox announced that Mike Hampton will oppose the Astros in Thursday's Game 2 of the Division Series. He'll be replacing Thomson, who is now tentatively slated to start Game 3 on Saturday at Minute Maid Park.
Moving Hampton up in the rotation allows Thomson two additional days to rest the muscle strain that he suffered in his left side during the third inning of Saturday's game at Wrigley Field. He's still unsure whether he suffered the injury while pitching or swinging.
"It makes sense to give it a couple more days," Thomson said. "Hampton will now be pitching on just one extra day's rest and I get a few more days to let this settle down."
Hampton, who went 11-1 in his final 14 regular season starts, tossed six strong innings on Friday against the Cubs. He'll be pitching on six days rest, which is a better scenario for him than if he had remained scheduled to start Game 3.
Thomson, who lost just one of his final 16 regular season starts, plans to throw a bullpen session on Tuesday in hopes of furthering his confidence that he'll be ready to make his first career postseason appearance on Saturday.
"I've never had any kind of muscle strain," Thomson said. "Then I get one in my final regular season start just before I'm going to make my first playoff start. It doesn't make me feel good. But the way it's been progressing the past couple of days, they say it looks good for Saturday. So that's good."
While Thomson's side session on Tuesday should answer a lot of questions, Braves trainer Jeff Porter has been encouraged with the progress that has been made in the past 48 hours.
"I'm feeling better about it about it all the time," Porter said. "He's shown improvement every day. It hasn't gotten stagnant yet."
If Thomson is unable to make his start on Saturday, the Braves could choose to go with Russ Ortiz, whose struggles at the end of the season cost him a spot in this Division Series rotation.
But Cox isn't ready to make this a definite alternative yet. He realizes that he might need Ortiz in long relief in either of the first two games.
When he makes his Game 1 start, Jaret Wright will be pitching for the first time since taking a line drive off his right foot on Sept. 28. Hampton made two successful starts after tearing cartilage in his left knee on Sept. 11. But it would be easy for him to aggravate the injury at any time.
"We'll see how the first two (games) play out and who needs to help us win those games," Cox said in regards to his backup plan if Thomson isn't ready by Saturday.
Although Ortiz posted a 6.71 ERA and allowed 16 homers in his final 10 regular season starts, the Braves remain confident in him. He has a wealth of postseason experience and in the eight starts preceding his end-of-the-season collapse, he was 6-0 with a 2.10 ERA.
"For us to be successful," Chipper Jones said, "we're going to need Russ Ortiz and we're going to need him to pitch well."
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.