Thursday, March 08, 2007

Torn side muscle looks to sideline Hampton for months.

During his third and final session of batting practice Wednesday, Mike Hampton swung and then dropped to his knees in pain. Hampton is just now finishing his 18 month recovery from Tommy John surgery that caused him to miss the whole 2006 season and the end of the 2005 season and now he is expected to miss at least a month or more with an apparent torn side muscle, most likely an oblique.

"The sad thing is he was feeling great the last two times - he felt normal," manager Bobby Cox said. "This is going to set him back quite a ways."

Exactly how long Cox didn't want to speculate. "It'll be a while," he said.

"He was just getting his arm strength back to normal and now he's not going to be able to throw at all," said Cox, meaning when Hampton's side heals he'll have to start over again to get his arm in pitching shape.

Hampton left Braves camp on Thursday morning to see Braves team orthopedist Norton Baker in Orlando.

Hampton was expected to be the Braves 3rd or 4th started this year and was one of the main reasons the Braves were quickly looking like one of the top teams in the National League. Last season the Braves came in 3rd place in the division with a record of 79-83, this was the first time Atlanta failed to win the Division in the past 14 seasons. The 14 straight division championships is a record that may never be reached by any team and with the return of Hampton among others, it seemed as though the Braves had an extremely good chance to return to the Post-Season.

Atlanta should be able to weather the storm until he returns again, with Kyle Davies and Lance Cormier. Hopefully he returns sometime in May or early June and the Braves are still in contention for a division crown.

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