03/29/2003 1:24 PM ET
Hampton placed on 15-day DL
ATLANTA -- Mike Hampton will have to wait to prove he can once again be considered one of the game's best pitchers.
|By Mark Bowman / MLB.com
Hampton was placed on the 15-day disabled list on Saturday morning with a strained right calf. He suffered the injury while running on a treadmill before Friday's exhibition game at Turner Field.
"I feel terrible about it," Hampton said. "I wanted to get off to a good start and help the team get off to a good start. It's kind of a wash right now."
Hampton may not be forced to miss a significant amount of time. Jeff Porter, the team's trainer, is not ready to put a timetable on his return, but said he was pleased with the lack of swelling he saw Saturday morning.
"I was happy with what I saw this morning," Porter said. "It definitely could have been worse."
Hampton, who was walking with an obvious limp Saturday morning, said he was 17 minutes into a 20-minute run on the treadmill when he felt a tweak in his leg. He immediately got treatment and believes that may be the reason why there was so much improvement by the time he awoke on Saturday.
"It feels better today than it did yesterday," Hampton said. "Hopefully it continues to progress this way."
This injury comes at an inopportune time. Hampton, did not allow an earned run in his final 10 spring innings, and was beginning to look more like his old successful self than the pitcher who was 7-16 with a 6.15 ERA with the Rockies last year.
But Hampton doesn't believe this will be a major setback. He suffered a similar injury just before the start of Spring Training in 2001 and was able to continue throwing while rehabbing the injury. The 30-year-old southpaw says he hopes to be throwing in the outfield again by the middle of this week.
"Mechanically, I don't want to take a step back because I have to take two weeks off," Hampton said. "I believe I'll be able to keep throwing and be ready to come back soon."
Braves manager Bobby Cox and general manager John Schuerholz both stressed that it is important that Hampton is completely healthy before returning.
"I think we'll be all right," Schuerholz said. "We have plenty of talented young arms in our organization who are capable of pitching here."
Because there is hope that Hampton may not miss more than three weeks, it's highly unlikely that Schuerholz will make any significant move to acquire a pitcher through a trade.
While there are some available veteran pitchers, who are free agents, it's still more likely the Braves will stay within their organization to fill starts while Hampton and Paul Byrd (tendinitis in his right elbow) are unavailable.
"We have plenty of flexibility," Schuerholz said. "We will look at all our options."
Horacio Ramirez, who will serve as the team's fifth starter, will start in Hampton's place on Wednesday night against the Expos. Cox wanted to keep Russ Ortiz on the same schedule and will start him on Thursday.
Jason Marquis, who has struggled this spring, will have an opportunity to prove himself over the next few weeks. He'll likely start on Friday. Greg Maddux's second turn in the rotation will follow Marquis' start.
The Braves still haven't decided who will pitch on April 6. But Byrd said Saturday morning that he plans to make a rehab start for Class-A Myrtle Beach on Tuesday and would be ready to follow Maddux.
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its