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Hampton leaves early with another injury
Atlanta Braves pitcher Mike Hampton, left, is helped off the mound by a trainer Friday after injuring his groin during the second inning of a spring training game against the Detroit Tigers in Kissimmee, Fla. - photo by The Associated Press

KISSIMMEE, Fla. — Mike Hampton’s elbow is holding up fine in his comeback with the Atlanta Braves. It’s the rest of his body that is beginning to betray him.

Hampton left in the second inning Friday with a strained right groin, and the Detroit Tigers beat Atlanta 9-6. The Braves said his latest injury is a mild strain that isn’t believed to be serious.

"I’ve got to get my legs in shape," said Hampton, who hasn’t pitched in a major league game since August 2005 because of two elbow operations and other ailments.

The left-hander said he came out of the game mainly as a precaution and still thinks he should be ready to open the season in Atlanta’s rotation. He hopes to make his next spring start as scheduled.

"I don’t think that this changes anything," Hampton said. "My arm feels great."

His legs, however, are another story. Hampton was limited to one inning in winter ball when he pulled his right hamstring in Mexico.

"The only way you can get your legs in pitching shape is by pitching," he said.

Batting leadoff for Detroit, catcher Ivan Rodriguez went 3-for-3 with a two-run homer and two doubles.

He scored three times. Brandon Inge, who has asked the Tigers for a trade, homered in the eighth inning.

Kenny Rogers allowed three runs — two earned — and three hits in 2 1-3 innings. The 43-year-old left-hander threw 52 pitches, 31 for strikes.

"I think I had decent stuff, but bad location," Rogers said. "It was just my second time out, so I’m not disappointed."

Rogers was limited to 11 starts last season because of shoulder surgery and a sore elbow. He pitched two scoreless innings against Cleveland in his spring debut, giving up one hit.

"As long as Kenny’s healthy, I’m healthy," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said.

Hampton began to feel tightness in his groin before allowing a second-inning single to Ryan Raburn. Unable to stretch it out, Hampton departed after making two pitches to Scott Sizemore.

"We caught it early," Hampton said.

Braves manager Bobby Cox didn’t sound concerned.

"I think he’s fine," Cox said.

"He wanted to continue. ... He’s ready arm-wise. Hopefully, he can make his next start. If it’s a couple days late, that’s OK, too."

Hampton yielded an unearned run and two hits in 1À innings, throwing 19 of his 38 pitches for strikes. He was sharp in his pain-free spring debut Sunday against Houston, allowing one hit in two scoreless innings.

He worked out of a jam in the first inning Friday thanks to a double-play grounder by Magglio Ordonez and a strikeout of Inge.

Hampton is entering the final season of the $121 million, eight-year contract he signed with Colorado before the 2001 season.

Tigers minor leaguer Wilkin Ramirez partially dislocated his right shoulder diving for Chipper Jones’ two-run single to left. Ramirez is 7-for-16 (.438) this spring with two homers and eight RBIs.

Jones returned to the lineup for the first time since tweaking his right hamstring Sunday.

"I never felt it once," he said.

Jones went 2-for-2 with a walk and made an error at third base.

Notes: Atlanta LHP Chuck James, who rehabbed a slight rotator cuff tear this winter, threw batting practice. His first spring start was pushed up to next Thursday. ... Braves closer Rafael Soriano, bothered by a sore elbow, threw a bullpen session and is expected to make his spring debut by the middle of next week. ... Atlanta reliever Peter Moylan is taking a couple of days off because of his tender elbow.

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