Left-hander Cole Hamels, one of the Braves’ key offseason acquisitions, dealt with shoulder irritation during the first version of spring training a few months ago. If not for the coronavirus forcing camp to shut down, and if the regular season would have started on schedule, Hamels would not have been ready to open 2020 in the Braves’ rotation. That’s no longer the case, though. With the season now on track to open in a month, Hamels should be part of Atlanta’s starting staff from the get-go, general manager Alex Anthopoulos said Wednesday (via Gabe Burns of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution).
The Braves inked Hamels to a one-year, $18MM contract over the winter in the hopes that he’d help fill the voids left by Dallas Keuchel and Julio Teheran, capable innings eaters who departed in free agency. Hamels, 36, does have a long and successful track record as a workhorse in his own right, having tossed at least 200 innings in eight different seasons. However, injuries slowed Hamels last year as a member of the Cubs, with whom he amassed 141 2/3 frames (the second-lowest figure of his career) and logged a 3.81 ERA/4.09 FIP with 9.08 K/9 and 3.56 BB/9.
While Hamels no longer seems to be the front-end starter he was during his prime, there’s nothing to suggest he won’t give the reigning NL East champions respectable production this year. Barring any injuries during spring training 2.0, he’ll join Mike Soroka, Max Fried and Mike Foltynewicz as locks in Atlanta’s staff. The fifth spot’s less certain, though Felix Hernandez, Kyle Wright and Sean Newcomb were all candidates for the role before the game’s abrupt halt.
Regardless of how the Braves’ season-opening rotation looks, Anthopoulos stated that he expects they’ll be conservative with their starters’ workloads for at least a couple turns, per Burns. That could mean appearances ranging from two to four innings at the outset of the campaign.