KISSIMMEE, Fla. — It was just a simulated game on a practice field behind the center-field fence, but Atlanta Braves pitcher Mike Hampton had a smile on his face afterwards.
That hasn’t been a common a sight the last few years as the veteran left-hander battled elbow and other injuries.
Hampton, making a comeback after missing all of the past two seasons, made 59 pitches in the four-inning outing prior to Wednesday night’s 11-4 exhibition victory by the Braves over Cleveland.
Buddy Carlyle, who started in place of Hampton, gave up three homers, but Atlanta used a nine-run fourth inning to improve to 9-5-1.
“It felt good,” Hampton said of his outing. “I threw all my pitches, and I reached back in the last inning and put a little extra on a few.”
Hampton’s twice-repaired elbow hasn’t been a problem this spring, but he had to leave a start last Friday against Detroit in the second inning after slightly straining his right groin.
“I didn’t have any tweaks or anything go wrong,” Hampton said. “I got the work in I needed and I feel I’m on track to start the season.”
Hampton is scheduled to pitch again on Monday, then would have time to make two more starts before the regular season begins.
Facing teammates Javy Lopez, Scott Thorman, Bryan Pena and Gregor Blanco on the back field, Hampton allowed two hits and hit a batter. He fanned Blanco in the fourth inning for his only strikeout.
“He looked just dynamite,” Braves manager Bobby Cox said. “That worked out.”
Carlyle gave up homers to Asdrubal Cabrera, Beau Mills and Grady Sizemore, all left-handed hitters, in his three-inning stint. “It seemed like they came on similar pitches,” the right-hander said. “They just dropped the bat head.”
The Braves sent 13 men to the plate in their big fourth inning as they overcame the Cleveland home runs. Seven of the nine runs off Aaron Fultz were earned.
Mark Teixeira had two singles in the inning, while Brian McCann started the scoring with a two-run homer. Teixeira was 3-for-3 in the game and McCann, who doubled in the first inning, had three RBIs.
Other than Hampton, the Braves’ most significant pitching news of the day was Blaine Boyer’s two scoreless innings of relief against the Indians. Boyer, who had shoulder surgery in 2006, hasnt allowed a run in eight innings this spring. He allowed one hit and struck out three against Cleveland.
“Boyer looked great,” Cox said.
Indians starter Brian Slocum had to leave in the Braves’ two-run first inning after straining his right groin. Slocum missed most of last season with AAA Buffalo because of an elbow problem. He said he began feeling tightness in his groin during warm-ups, but tried to pitch through it.
Notes: The Braves made their first spring cuts, dropping nine players. Pitchers Charlie Morton, Phil Stockman, Matt DeSalvo and Zach Schreiber were sent to Class AAA Richmond, pitcher Jairo Cuevas and catcher J.C. Boscan to Class AA Mississippi, and catcher Tyler Flowers to Class A Myrtle Beach. Infielders Javier Guzman and Diory Hernandez were assigned to minor league camp. . . . The Indians re-signed injured reliever Juan Lara to a minor league deal after releasing him from the 40-man roster. on Monday. It is considered unlikely that Lara will be able to pitch again, but the move allows the Indians to continue medical and financial support. . . . Chuck James, who was diagnosed with a slight rotator cuff tear after last season, will make his spring debut Thursday when the Braves play Detroit in Lakeland. . . . Braves shortstop Yunel Escobar extended his hitting streak to 11 games with a third-inning single against the Indians. . . . Brad Snyder also homered for Cleveland. . . . The Indians’ spring record is 6-8-1.