ATLANTA -- Cole Hamels will report to camp next week with a healthy left shoulder and the expectation to be ready for Opening Day. But the Braves will still likely harness the veteran left-hander’s workload for at least another month.
“He’s feeling great,” Braves president of baseball operations Alex Anthopoulos said. “We’ll see how things progress with each of our guys and how much we can get them stretched out before Opening Day. But right now in terms of our projections, he’s somebody we plan to carry with us at the start of this year.”
Yeah, things could change over the weeks leading up to the Braves’ Opening Day game, which will be played on either July 23 or 24. But fortunately, Hamels is in a much better spot than he was five months ago, when Spring Training opened with the revelation he would miss most of camp with left shoulder inflammation.
Had the start of the baseball season not been delayed because of the coronavirus, there’s a good chance Hamels would have been sidelined through at least the end of May. Now it looks like he could be available for the entirety of the 60-game regular-season schedule that will be contested over the next few months.
But the Braves still seem intent on taking a cautious approach with Hamels. The left-hander has kept the team updated by sending video of the throwing sessions he has completed near his home in Dallas. He is scheduled to throw a bullpen session on Friday and then continue to make normal preparations over the weeks that follow.
Barring any setbacks, Hamels will most likely start one of the first few games played by the Braves. But Anthopoulos has hinted that the team might limit each of its starters to three or four innings for their first couple of starts.
While Mike Soroka, Mike Foltynewicz and the other projected starters have remained prepared by throwing regularly over the past few months, the Braves are still going to take some caution as they evaluate where each of their starters is from an endurance standpoint.
Unlike the framework of a normal Spring Training season, the preparations made over the next three weeks will not allow pitchers to routinely get reintroduced to the adrenaline felt during games. There will be live batting practices and intrasquad games. But teams will not be permitted to play more than three exhibition games.
“Just to be overly cautious and make sure we don’t accelerate things too fast, we want to make sure they all can last and we don’t run into any injuries," Anthopoulos said. "We’re not going to push our guys in the rotation to do more than we think is safe. Because of our depth, we feel like we can do that.”
Because teams will be permitted to carry 30 players on the active roster through the season’s first two weeks, the Braves will likely have an abundance of starting pitchers on the Opening Day roster.
If the starting rotation were to consist of Soroka, Foltynewicz, Hamels, Sean Newcomb and Max Fried, then Félix Hernández, Kyle Wright and Touki Toussaint would be among the candidates available to come out of the bullpen to “piggyback” these starters during the regular season’s first couple of weeks.
• Anthopoulos said he has not been informed that any of his players or coaches have tested positive for COVID-19. He also said he does not know of anybody who may opt not to play because of health concerns this year.
“I’m not aware of any,” Anthopoulos said. “As we all know, things are very fluid, just seeing what’s going on around the world in sports. But as of now, we have not been made aware of any [cases].
• When the Braves open camp next week, the players projected to be on the 30-man Opening Day roster will train at Truist Park. Another group of about 30 players will train about 35 miles away at Triple-A Gwinnett’s Coolray Field. This group will consist of players who could be added to Atlanta’s roster at some point and some top prospects the club wants to develop without the presence of a Minor League season.