Notes: Hampton progressing at camp
Southpaw recovering from surgery, likely to miss first start
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- To determine how Mike Hampton fared while throwing his latest session of batting practice, one must decide whether to side with Hampton's cautious evaluation or the optimistic one delivered by Braves manager Bobby Cox.
"There's going to be good days and bad days," Hampton said after Tuesday's session at Disney's Wide World of Sports complex. "Today was all right. I just know I've got a long way to go. I've got some things to accomplish before I can get into a game."
As for Cox, he was much more upbeat after watching Hampton mix some breaking balls in with multiple fastballs that seemingly neared his normal velocity.
"He threw good to me, free and easy," Cox said. "I know that he's not 100 percent satisfied, but every guy who has gone through [Tommy John elbow reconstruction surgery] feels the same way."
Hampton, who underwent Tommy John surgery in 2005, has now thrown three batting practice sessions over the past week, but this is the first in which he mixed in some curveballs.
It was when he threw these breaking pitches that he realized some slight discomfort in his surgically repaired left elbow.
"I felt good early," Hampton said. "Then I threw some breaking balls and it didn't feel as good later in my session as it did earlier."
Hampton's expressions and words provided indication that he'll miss at least his first start during the Grapefruit League season.
"I'm just going to not try to rush it," Hampton said. "As bad as I want to get out there and pitch, I know I'm not ready right now. I don't feel that I can go out there and pitch consistently for 30 pitches -- let it go and pitch with the confidence that I'll be all right."
Hampton has thrown three batting practice sessions over the past week, and after two of them he has looked a bit dejected. His most encouraging session came on Saturday, when he threw only fastballs and changeups.
"It is what it is," Hampton said. "I can't get too down about it. I just have to stay positive and, hopefully, everything works itself out."
Even if he's unable to make a start next week, Hampton would still have time to make the five exhibition starts he needs to be ready for the season. Cox is only looking for the veteran left-hander to prove capable of providing five innings in his first regular-season start.
But Wickman, who converted 18 of the 19 save opportunities he had with the Braves last year, has made a positive impression with some of his bullpen sessions. From the first day pitchers and catchers worked out, Cox has been pleased with the precise mechanics his veteran closer has displayed.
"I'm amazed because anybody who has been around that long would throw that good the very first day that he got here," said Cox, after saying he was once again impressed with Wickman's bullpen session on Wednesday.
Tech coming to town: When the Braves open their exhibition season against Georgia Tech on Wednesday, they'll be looking to preserve a perfect streak. They've won each of the 19 exhibition-season openers that they've played against Georgia or Georgia Tech.
Clint Sammons, who will likely be Double-A Mississippi's catcher this year, fondly remembers the two occasions that he and his Georgia teammates had the opportunity to play against the Braves.
Last year, Sammons had the opportunity to play for the Braves when they hosted Georgia.
"Those guys always do a good job during batting practice of coming over to say hello," Sammons said of the Major Leaguers. "I remember Chipper [Jones] and [John Smoltz] coming over to shake hands. You put those guys on such a pedestal when you're in college. I remember that being really neat."
Tech will be looking to record their first hit against the Braves since 2003. When they came to town in 2005, they saw five Braves pitcher combine for a no-hitter.
Braves bits: Right-handed reliever Blaine Boyer, who bruised his right fingernail while opening a window on Saturday, threw on Tuesday and reported minimal discomfort. ... Tuesday's workout was delayed for about an hour because of rain. ... One Braves official says that Willy Aybar may finally report to camp on Thursday. The utility infielder has had trouble obtaining a visa.
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.