NORTH PORT, Fla. -- Cole Hamels will miss the start of the regular season. But the Braves hope the veteran left-hander's sore left shoulder will be healthy after a few weeks of rest.
Hamels recently informed the Braves’ medical staff of the shoulder discomfort he felt after completing weighted-ball drills. The 36-year-old is currently in Dallas undergoing treatment with noted surgeon Keith Meister. The Braves will wait three weeks before evaluating Hamels' status.
“He told us he’s not concerned,” Braves general manager Alex Anthopoulos said on Wednesday. “We’re going to give him three weeks to calm down and hopefully get re-evaluated and hopefully start a progression at that point. As a starter, you’re starting a progression with long toss, bullpens, innings and all that. That’s going to take time.”
The Braves are not ready to set a potential timetable for Hamels' return. But even if he is cleared to begin throwing again in three weeks, his six-week Spring Training preparations would not begin before the first week of March. Thus, it seems safe to assume the 2008 World Series MVP will not be ready to join Atlanta’s rotation before the second half of April.
Maybe this won’t prove to be a significant issue. Maybe like Mike Soroka last year, Hamels will miss a few weeks and then make a positive impact over the remainder of the season. But as the Braves welcomed pitchers and catchers to Spring Training on Wednesday, this was not what they wanted to discuss in reference to Hamels, who signed a one-year, $18 million deal in December.
“I don’t think it’s going to be anything that will be major,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “We’ll re-evaluate him in three weeks and see where he’s at.”
With Hamels out of the mix for a spot on the Opening Day roster, the Braves will need to fill two rotation spots. Félix Hernández, Sean Newcomb and Kyle Wright came to camp ready to battle to open the season as Atlanta’s fifth starter. Now, two of them might open the season in the rotation. Or, Anthopoulos could opt to find another experienced pitcher who might not fit with his current club between now and Opening Day.
“There was going to be a competition in camp anyways,” Anthopoulos said. “Coming in to Spring Training, the upside for us is, are any of these young guys going to take a step forward? However we were going to break, we were going to need more than five [available starters]. Over the course of six months, [injuries] are going to happen. Whoever was going to get a chance in the middle of the season is probably going to get a chance at the start now.”
Anthopoulos does not believe Hamels' current shoulder ailment is related to the fatigue that led the Cubs to skip one of his starts in September.
When Hamels was asked about the shoulder on Jan. 25, he said, “You just try to get smarter. As you build up toward the season, each year you learn a little bit more about what it takes, or you know how to lessen and step back because it really matters. It’s about opening the season healthy and maintaining your health throughout the year and really not peak too soon.”
This might prove to be just a minor ailment that causes Hamels to miss three or four starts. But it looks like his inability to heed his own advice might have bit him as he prepared for a new season with a new team.
“He was very apologetic,” Anthopoulos said. “He just said he overdid it.”