Notes: Hampton passing tests
Left-hander's hamstring tested in latest Braves workouts
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- After the first week of workouts, Mike Hampton has been the most pleasant surprise in Braves camp. His twice-surgically left repaired elbow has remained sound and his right hamstring passed its latest test when he had to react to two batted balls during Friday's workout at Disney's Wide World of Sports Complex.
When Scott Thorman lined a Hampton pitch back against the protective screen in front of the mound, Braves athletic trainer Jeff Porter said "that was a good test for the hamstring." A few minutes later, a batted ball to the left side of the mound prompted the 35-year-old veteran pitcher to instinctively react in the same manner he would if he were in a game.
Once Hampton finished throwing 10 minutes of batting practice, he walked off the mound and provided a sincere "Thank you" to Thorman and the three other Braves hitters who were the latest to realize why the coaching staff has been so impressed with this veteran pitcher.
"They all have been thrilled with him," Braves manager Bobby Cox said. "He's on top of his game right now."
Hampton missed the past two seasons recovering from separate left elbow surgeries and then strained his right hamstring in November while pitching in Mexico. Suffice it to say, he entered camp facing plenty of doubt. But one week later, there's at least reason to believe he could be pitching in Grapefruit League games during March's first week.
While Hampton's elbow has been the focus since it first became a problem in May 2005, the more immediate concern is the hamstring. He's been conscious of the injury during fielding drills and is hopeful that he'll soon be reacting in game situations without any concerns.
"Right now, I'm to the point where I feel like everything is going to be OK. But I'm not to the point where I don't think about it before I run," said Hampton, whose last big league appearance came Aug. 19, 2005. "Hopefully before April, I just get to the point where I just throw and go."
Batting order? Cox isn't tipping his hand as to how he's going to align the top couple spots in his batting lineup. He's continuing to say that either Yunel Escobar or Kelly Johnson could serve as the leadoff hitter. Both fared well in that role for extended periods last year.
Nor is Cox definitely saying Mark Kotsay will fill one of the lineup's top two spots. There's seemingly a chance he could use Johnson and Escobar as his first two hitters in no particular order. With this combination of a left-handed (Johnson) and right-handed hitter (Escobar), Cox could even mix who he uses in the top spot.
There's a strong belief the Braves will miss the unselfish and consistent production Edgar Renteria provided in the second spot of the lineup last year. Based on what he saw from Johnson and Escobar last year, Cox believes both are able to provide desired intangibles, like hitting to the right side to advance baserunners.
"Escobar can hit behind a runner as good as anybody I've ever seen," Cox said. "Kelly's left-handed. That's easy for him."
James update: Chuck James, who is battling back from a tear that was detected in his left elbow in October, successfully completed a bullpen session Friday that included 30 pitches at a moderated effort.
"It was probably 60 to 75 percent effort," James said. "Everything feels real good. I haven't thrown any changeups or anything like that. But for the second bullpen, I'm very happy with it. ... We'll see how it feels in the morning."
If James is unable to start the season, the Braves could use Jair Jurrjens, Jo-Jo Reyes or Jeff Bennett in the rotation's fifth spot.
Glavine's generosity: While playing golf Thursday afternoon, right fielder Jeff Francoeur playfully begged left-hander Tom Glavine to give him the opportunity to take him deep. The 300-game winner obliged with a couple of gifts Francoeur promptly deposited over the outfield wall Friday morning. One hit the scoreboard in left-center and the other went directly down the left-field line.
"Now I've accomplished my goal of hitting a homer off Glavine," said Francoeur, who has just two singles in 11 career at-bats against the 41-year-old southpaw. "It would have been nice to do it in a real game."
After finishing his live batting practice session, a smiling Glavine said, "Thank you" to the hitters and then received a thank you from Francoeur, who closely followed the career of the legendary left-hander while growing up in Atlanta.
Braves bits: Players and staff will undergo physicals this weekend. The workouts Saturday and Sunday will begin at 1 p.m. ET. ... The Braves will honor the memory of Jim Beauchamp by wearing a patch on the left sleeve of their jerseys this season. Beauchamp, a longtime coach and instructor in the organization, lost his battle against leukemia in December. ... Cox was expected to discuss his Grapefruit League rotation with his coaches on Friday afternoon.
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.