Hampton to make one more rehab start
Left-hander's return to Braves could come on July 21
SAN DIEGO -- Critics will say that Mike Hampton is simply nearing another disappointment. The Braves are taking the optimistic approach and thinking the injury-plagued hurler is just one Minor League rehab start away from making his long-awaited return to the Majors.
Hampton experienced no problems and provided a positive impression while allowing two earned runs and six hits in five innings for Double-A Mississippi on Thursday night. Braves manager Bobby Cox said the 35-year-old southpaw will pitch again on Wednesday and then likely join the Atlanta starting rotation.
"He throws one more rehab game maybe and then we'll see what happens," Cox said before Friday night's series opener against the Padres at PETCO Park.
Hampton, who hasn't pitched in the Majors since 2005, likely will make Wednesday's start in Mississippi against Carolina. There is also a chance that he could make this final rehab appearance for the Class A Rome squad that will be playing in Lexington, Ky., that day.
Whenever dealing with Hampton, it has become wise to use guarded optimism. After missing the past two seasons while recovering from separated surgical procedures on his left elbow, he was expected to begin this year in the Atlanta rotation. But approximately 10 minutes before his scheduled season debut on April 3, he strained his left pectoral muscle.
When Hampton aggravated that same injury during an April 30 rehab start for Triple-A Richmond, there was reason to wonder if he'd pitch again. But during the four rehab starts he's made over the past few weeks, he hasn't experienced any health-related concerns.
Providing more encouragement for Cox is the fact that all the reports have indicated Hampton is generating a lot of movement with his sinker and showing no apprehension with his pitches.
"They said he was just excellent [on Thursday]," Cox said. "[Mississippi pitching coach Derek] Botelho was impressed."
With Hampton slated to pitch on Wednesday, his return to the Majors could come on July 21 when the Braves open a three-game series against the Marlins in Dolphin Stadium.
If Hampton returns, the Braves may choose to send Charlie Morton back to Triple-A Richmond, where he could gain seasoning and be in an environment where his workload could be better controlled.
There is also a chance the Braves could get Tom Glavine back in their rotation within the next few weeks. The 42-year-old southpaw hasn't had any problems with his elbow while playing catch three times this week. He plans to repeat this exercise on Saturday and then increase his distance and intensity next week.
If all continues to go well, Glavine hopes to test his elbow off the mound when play resumes after the All-Star break. He hasn't thrown with this downward angle since June 10, when his partially torn flexor tendon forced him to make an early exit from his start at Wrigley Field.
While his elbow has provided him no problems, Glavine is proceeding with caution because he went nearly a month without throwing. His concern is that he doesn't want to push too hard and injure his shoulder, which has provided him discomfort throughout much of his career.
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.