Sports Outside the Beltway

Mike Hampton on DL Yet Again

Mike Hampton, who has missed the last two seasons with various injuries, hurt himself warming up for his first start of 2008 and will go back on the disabled list.

Mike Hampton’s return to the mound is once again in a holding pattern. Or a disabled pattern. The Braves pitcher landed on the 15-day disabled list once again, this time for a strained pectoral muscle in the left side of his chest, which flared during his pregame warmup Thursday night. The left-hander was scratched minutes before his scheduled start against Pittsburgh, which was to have been his first regular-season game in 31 1/2 months.

“It’s unbelievable that something else could pop up like that,” said manager Bobby Cox, who announced that left-hander Jo-Jo Reyes would be brought up temporarily from Class AAA Richmond and that lefty Chuck James would join the rotation in Hampton’s place before his next scheduled turn.

James (shoulder) will be activated from the DL on Sunday. He was scheduled to begin the season in the Richmond rotation, but that plan changed abruptly with Hampton’s latest injury.

“Nobody’s more disappointed than I am,” said Hampton, who missed the past two seasons recovering from two left-elbow surgeries 16 months apart. “I worked pretty hard to get to this point. “I hate it for Bobby and the team, and I hate it for myself. … I don’t know if snake-bitten is the word for it.” Hampton said he and Braves doctors believe the injury is minor. He added, “I hope that’s all it is.”

Cox and the pitcher said Hampton felt some discomfort in his chest when he threw a bullpen session Monday, but that it was better when he threw Wednesday in the outfield. About 20 pitches into his warmup session Thursday, Hampton said the muscle began to “grab” and he decided he shouldn’t risk more serious injury by making the start. He said it was hard to step off the bullpen mound and tell pitching coach Roger McDowell that he wouldn’t be able to start.

I feel bad for the guy, because I’m sure he’s working hard to get back. At the same time, it’s frustrating from a fan’s perspective that he’s eating so much of the Braves’ salary allocation without contributing. He’s been a giant liability to the club’s success.

Baseball’s guaranteed conracts are a joke. At least in the NFL, if a player goes down, the team can give him an injury settlement and cut ties. In baseball, guys like Hampton are an anchor on a team.

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