Cole Hamels’ bid to be ready by Opening Day was further weakened on Saturday, when the Braves’ left-hander did not complete a scheduled side session due to triceps tendinitis.
“He’s going trough what he said were normal things before in Spring Training,” said Braves manager Brian Snitker.
Unfortunately, there is nothing normal about the current expedited preparations for the season. Instead of having the normal six weeks of Spring Training, players were given three weeks of Summer Camp to prepare for the 2020 restart. One of those weeks has already elapsed, and Hamels’ tendinitis will likely at least cut into a portion of that second week.
“I think we’re a week away from seeing where he’s going to be when [the regular season starts],” said Snitker, who said earlier this week that Hamels was still on schedule to be on the Opening Day roster.
Now it looks like the Braves might need to plan to begin the season without the lefty in their rotation. Time is simply running out even if Hamels was pushed to the fifth spot and slated to make his first start on July 29.
If Hamels wasn’t ready to throw on Saturday, he’s likely not going to be cleared to get back on the mound before the middle of the coming weeks. This would be two weeks before that potential July 29 outing, and he still likely won’t be cleared to throw live batting practice, something the other projected starters — Mike Soroka, Max Fried, Mike Foltynewicz and Sean Newcomb — all did as soon as camp opened last weekend.
So while Snitker has not definitively ruled Hamels out for the start of the season, it’s looking more like the four-time All-Star will wait until August to make his Braves debut.
Even if this latest setback was simply a minor one, it adds to the frustration the Braves have thus far experienced with Hamels. The team signed the lefty to a one-year deal worth $18 million despite the fact he made just one appearance — a four-inning stint coupled with 11 total days of rest — after being bothered late last season with discomfort in his left shoulder.
Unfortunately, the left shoulder became inflamed again during January workouts and prevented Hamels from throwing before Spring Training was shut down in March. If the start of the season hadn’t been delayed, Hamels believes he’d have been ready to join Atlanta’s rotation by the end of May.
Still, even with the long layoff and extra time to recover from the winter discomfort, Hamels was behind Atlanta’s other projected starters when camp opened last week.
When asked if Hamels would be ready for the start of the season, Snitker and president of baseball operations Alex Anthopoulos said they felt he’d be ready to throw a few innings while a piggyback system was used during both of his first two starts.
If this bout with tendinitis does prove to be just a minor setback, Hamels might now debut a week later than expected. If it is another sign that the veteran hurler is now being undone by natural wear and tear, Braves fans will become even more frustrated.
But for now, the club has no choice but to remain patient and hope Hamels’ tenure in Atlanta proves to be much more memorable than it has been thus far.