Hampton completes bullpen session
Southpaw makes strides, admits being 'tentative' mentally
ATLANTA -- There was a curve thrown in the latest chapter of the comeback efforts of veteran lefty Mike Hampton. In fact, there were a few of them -- and Hampton couldn't be happier, since, for a change, he was the one throwing them.
"It went pretty well -- I threw just breaking balls this time," said Hampton of his bullpen session, which took place prior to the Braves' Saturday afternoon contest with the Dodgers and consisted of approximately 50 pitches, and included breaking pitches for the first time.
"I didn't feel anything bite me. Mentally, I'm a little tentative, maybe, trying to feel my way through it.
"I had a little bit more velocity," he added, assessing his strength at about 85 percent. "I'm still a little tentative of the injury itself, but [the bullpen session] was with more intensity than last time."
The 50 or so pitches are up from the 40 that he made in his previous bullpen session, which consisted entirely of fastballs.
"I probably threw four or five curveballs, four or five cutters, a couple of changeups, just kind of feeling through it," Hampton said. "I didn't want to go out there and let it go the first time. The next time I'll make that step."
The 35-year-old lefty will throw another bullpen session on Tuesday and, if that goes well, he feels he's ready for live competition.
"I told [pitching coach Roger McDowell] that if I can do that the next time out I'll be ready to face competition, whether it be simulated or Minor League or whatever," said Hampton. "That's a little ways away, but I feel like if I can make the same jump the next time out that I made from the first time to this time, I should be ready to do something competitive."
Hampton was put on the 15-day disabled list after suffering a strained left pectoral muscle while warming up in the bullpen prior to his April 3 start. It would have been his first since Aug. 19, 2005, and, according to Elias, would have made him only the second pitcher with 250 starts to start a game after missing two consecutive seasons.
The latest setback was especially disappointing on the heels of his stellar Spring Training, in which he collected a 2.16 ERA, allowing only four earned runs (five overall), in 16 2/3 innings.
Hampton feels that regaining that form won't be as hard for him physically as it will be mentally.
"I've kept my body in shape, doing all the stuff that I needed to do," said Hampton, who carries a 138-101 Major League record. "Without a doubt, facing competition, I'm gonna think about [the injury]. It's not an overnight thing. I just have to get to where I just worry about getting hitters out."
Jon Cooper is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.