ATLANTA — Mike Hampton’s long procession of comeback attempts is taking an emotional toll that forced him to at least briefly consider retirement.
Hampton left Wednesday’s rehab start at Triple-A Richmond after aggravating his injured left pectoral muscle. The Atlanta Braves left-hander first suffered the chest injury in pregame warmups on April 3 when he was only minutes away from completing a comeback from two elbow surgeries.
The start would have been his first in almost three years, but instead he was placed on the disabled list.
After his latest setback, Hampton has been advised to sit out longer before trying to pitch again.
The disappointment made Hampton think about retiring.
"I’d be lying, lying to myself, if I said things like that don’t creep into your mind when you go through setback after setback after setback," Hampton said Saturday.
"With this latest one, they’re just saying all we can do is just wait and see. Nobody has any treatment. Nobody has any answer, I don’t think."
Hampton, 35, said he’s not ready to walk away from the game.
"I’m going to exhaust every option, everything I can do to get back on the field and I’ve done that for three years now," he said.
"There’s a breaking point with everybody. I’ve remained positive for a long, long time. Now I have no answers.
Physically and mentally I’ve prepared myself to get on the field and be successful and further my career. Whatever it may be, it’s just tough for me to get back on the field."
Hampton has suffered other setbacks since making his last appearance in a major league game on Aug. 19, 2005.
He pitched only one inning in Mexico this winter before slipping on the mound and injuring his hamstring. He strained his groin in the second inning of his second spring training game.
Hampton rebounded from the setbacks to post a 2.16 ERA in five spring starts. Hampton won a spot in the rotation before being scratched from his scheduled first start.
Hampton is 53-48 with a 4.80 ERA in 134 starts since signing a $121 million, eight-year contract with Colorado before the 2001 season. He made his last start for Atlanta on Aug. 19, 2005.
Making plans for Smoltz
Manager Bobby Cox began to lay out a tentative plan on how to use John Smoltz as a closer when Smoltz returns from his severely inflamed biceps tendon and inflammation of the rotator cuff of his right shoulder.
Cox, expecting to have Smoltz, Rafael Soriano, Mike Gonzalez and current closer Manny Acosta as ninth-inning options, says he won’t have to rely on Smoltz every game.
Soriano in on the disabled list with right elbow tendinitis and Gonzalez is nearing his return from Tommy John surgery.