07/18/08 8:15 PM ET
Hampton unsure when he'll pitch
Latest setback forces veteran left-hander to ponder his future
By Mark Bowman / MLB.com
"I'm just being honest with myself," Hampton said. "We're coming up on three years. It's not rocket science."
It has been two years, 11 months and one day since Hampton last pitched in the Majors, and during this long, frustrating absence, he has become a thorough study in medical science. Separate left elbow surgeries sidelined him the past two seasons, and his attempted return this year has been blocked by two different groin strains and a left pectoral strain.
"I've had so many obstacles and setbacks to overcome," Hampton said. "I'm just taking it one day at a time. I don't know what the future holds. I know that I've done everything I can to get back on a big league mound. Whether that happens, I don't know.
"I can look myself in the mirror and honestly say that I've done everything I can to get back. I wouldn't sell my soul to the devil, but I'd get close."
While delivering this honest assessment on Friday afternoon at Turner Field, Hampton displayed the human side of a frustrated individual who hasn't thrown a pitch in the Majors since Aug. 19, 2005.
"I'm just taking it day-to-day," said Hampton, who is in the final year of his eight-year, $121 million contract. "I don't know what the future holds."
This wasn't exactly the address Hampton was planning to deliver on Friday. Instead, he had hoped to be talking about preparing to face the Marlins on Monday or Tuesday. But the left groin strain that forced him to exit Wednesday night's Minor League rehab start for Double-A Mississippi led to him once again revise his plans.
Hampton felt this strain during the fifth inning of a July 10 Minor League rehab start for Double-A Mississippi, and believed he'd be strong enough to return with five days of rest. But he felt more discomfort during Wednesday's first inning, and when it was still present in the second inning, he cut his night short.
Providing some optimism for Hampton is the fact that he believes the severity of this ailment is similar to the right groin strain he suffered during his March 7 Spring Training start against the Tigers. He was able to return five days after that to throw a simulated game, and then five days later, he took his next scheduled turn against the Cardinals.
When Hampton began this rehab assignment, he was attempting to return from a left pectoral strain that he originally suffered approximately 10 minutes before making his scheduled April 3 season debut for the Braves at Turner Field. He aggravated that injury during an April 30 rehab start for Triple-A Richmond.
Because he has suffered a different injury, the Braves would be able to send Hampton out on another Minor League rehab assignment without dealing with the time parameters that were set at the beginning of this past assignment.
But for now, the Braves and Hampton will have to stay in a holding pattern without any indication of whether he'll pitch again.
"My arm is big league ready," Hampton said. "I know that for a fact. My arm is as good as it's been."
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.