Recently inked Braves lefty Cole Hamels isn’t reporting to camp just yet, the team informed reporters including David O’Brien of The Athletic (Twitter links). He’ll remain at home for a stretch after experiencing shoulder irritation this winter.
The news isn’t drastic just yet, but it’s certainly not what you hope to hear at this stage of the pre-season. Hamels is set to be reevaluated in three weeks’ time, which means he’ll almost certainly miss most or all of Spring Training. While manager Brian Snitker is expressing optimism, it’s hard to imagine that Hamels won’t be delayed at the start of the season.
For the Braves, the hope will be that this is just an early-season blip. The club had inked Hamels to a one-year, $18MM deal with the expectation that the durable veteran would anchor the rotation at a solid value, without any long-term entanglements.
Hamels has been one of the game’s most reliable arms over his 14 seasons in the majors. The 36-year-old missed a handful of outings last year (27 starts) and was sidelined for a bit in 2017 (24 starts), but has otherwise taken the ball more than thirty times in ten of the past dozen campaigns.
At this point, it doesn’t seem there’s reason for the Braves to go scrambling for fill-in options. The newfound concern could help explain why the club just added Josh Tomlin, a potential swingman, to a group of non-roster invitees that already includes Felix Hernandez. There are plenty of younger pitchers who could be candidates to fill in for a few early-season starts as well, though obviously the calculus could change if Hamels doesn’t respond as hoped to rest and treatment.