ATLANTA -- Those who predicted that Mike Hampton wouldn't throw a pitch for the Braves this season are moving closer to being correct. Even the chronically-injured left-hander has been forced to realize this might be a possibility.

When Hampton exited Wednesday afternoon's Minor League rehab start with Triple-A Richmond because of more discomfort in his left pectoral muscle, the Braves knew the news wasn't good. After they had a chance to talk to the 35-year-old hurler, they came to understand that his exit wasn't simply a precautionary action.

"I did it worse than before," said Hampton, who originally strained the left pectoral muscle approximately 10 minutes before making his scheduled April 3 start against the Pirates. "I don't know what kind of timetable there is for this. All I know is it's pretty bad."

If anything regarding Hampton's health could be considered encouraging, it came Friday afternoon, when doctors told him the results of an MRI scan showed that he didn't tear his pectoral muscle.

When you haven't been able to pitch in a Major League game since Aug. 19, 2005, it's tough to get too excited about any medical-related updates. In fact, over the past few days, Hampton has at least thought about calling an end to his career.

"Thoughts of retirement creep in," Hampton said. "Surgery and all of those other things creep into your mind."

Hampton, who has missed the past two seasons recovering from separate surgical procedures on his left elbow, is in the final year of a $121 million contract. Whether or not he throws a single pitch, he will receive $15 million this year.

The only way he wouldn't receive the entirety of this salary would be if he opted to retire.

Dating back to the beginning of the 2005 season and running through the end of this year, Hampton will have made $56 million. So far, he has made just 12 starts during that span.

"I'm not going to give up," Hampton said. "I'm just not sure how long it's going to take."