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Healthy Hamels throws, readies for season

@mlbbowman
July 3, 2020

ATLANTA -- After throwing his latest side session on Friday morning at Truist Park, Cole Hamels expressed confidence in being ready to give the Braves what they will be seeking at the start of the regular season. “The shoulder feels great,” Hamels said. “Now, it’s really just about building the

ATLANTA -- After throwing his latest side session on Friday morning at Truist Park, Cole Hamels expressed confidence in being ready to give the Braves what they will be seeking at the start of the regular season.

“The shoulder feels great,” Hamels said. “Now, it’s really just about building the endurance. It’s good to just get back in a rhythm and be around some guys to where it is a little more competitive. You get the adrenaline going and then try to stay within yourself for the next couple weeks so we’re all healthy and ready to go.”

It might be more of a sprint than a marathon as players prepare for the 60-game season that is slated to start on July 23 or 24. But endurance will still play a part in this race, with the hope of ending it with Hamels and each of Atlanta's other top starting pitchers healthy.

“We’re just going to try to get [Hamels] ready,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “I don’t know if we have time to get any starter ready to throw five or six innings, so it’s good we have the depth we do. But he’s still checking boxes off and doing the [side sessions].”

This adjusted race certainly wouldn’t have started with Hamels had the start of the season not been delayed by the coronavirus pandemic. The left shoulder inflammation that relegated the veteran southpaw to bystander status during this year’s Spring Training would have likely kept him out of Atlanta’s rotation through at least the end of May.

Given nearly four additional months to prepare, Hamels used FaceTime to stay in regular contact with the Braves’ trainers, who provided virtual workouts and therapy sessions. Hamels also sent the team video of some of the throwing sessions he completed over the past few weeks outside his family residence in Texas.

Hamels was cleared to throw off a mound last week. He has not experienced any setbacks with any of the three side sessions he has completed over the eight days that have followed. Now, he has three weeks to use live batting practice sessions and intrasquad games to be ready to start during the regular season’s first week.

The 36-year-old pitcher believes he’ll be ready once he conditions his arm and body to throw 50-60 pitches in what will likely be simulated-game settings.

“If I could get there, I’d be really comfortable knowing I could go into a game to get those four to five innings to begin with,” Hamels said.

That’s all the Braves will be looking for from Hamels, who signed a one-year, $18 million deal in December.

Braves president of baseball operations Alex Anthopoulos has said Hamels and some of the team’s other starters might be limited to three to four innings during their first two starts. The active roster will be expanded to 30 players over the season’s first 15 days, so the presence of a few extra relievers will allow teams to be cautious with their starters.

“Really all that matters is putting up zeroes,” Hamels said. “If you can put up two or five zeroes while you’re out there, that’s helping the team.”

Mark Bowman has covered the Braves for MLB.com since 2001.