Hampton encouraged after sim game

Hampton encouraged after sim game

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Mike Hampton broke a few bats during his four-inning simulated game at Disney's Wide World of Sports Complex on Wednesday afternoon. But fortunately for the Braves, he survived the session without breaking, tearing or tweaking any of the many body parts that have recently caused him problems.

Hampton, whose long injury list grew longer on Friday, when he strained his right groin, was encouraged enough to say without hesitation that he'll be ready on Monday.

"I'll look forward to pitching in a game when it's my next turn," Hampton said. "I didn't have any tweaks or anything go wrong."

Manager Bobby Cox was pleased with what he saw and is looking forward to seeing Hampton pitch on Monday against the Cardinals in Jupiter.

"He looked just dynamite," Cox said. "We couldn't have been happier."

While throwing 59 pitches during Wednesday's simulated game, Hampton felt no discomfort and also got the sense that he's regained some of the leg strength that he said was missing 10 days ago, when he made his Grapefruit League debut.

When he arrived in camp, Hampton was conscious of the right hamstring strain he'd suffered in November while pitching in the Mexican Winter League.

But based on the way he's felt the past week, he said he entered Wednesday's session concerned only about his groin, which he'd tweaked during the second inning of last Friday's start against the Tigers.

"Even the last couple of days, I've been running in the outfield, and I've felt better," he said. "We're getting there. We're definitely moving in the right direction."

Batting against Hampton in the simulated game were Javy Lopez, Brayan Pena, Scott Thorman and Gregor Blanco. During a perfect first inning that included two groundouts, he broke both Thorman and Pena's bats. Lopez's deep drive to the right-center-field gap in the third inning was the only thing that appeared to be an extra-base hit.

While once again showing a healthy dose of curveballs, Hampton was happy with his location. His only visibly wayward pitch found the right shoulder blade of Thorman, who responded by playfully throwing his bat to the ground.

With the potential to make three more exhibition starts, Hampton remains confident that he'll be in the Braves' starting rotation when the regular season begins.

Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.