NORTH PORT, Fla. (AP) — Cole Hamels rejoined the Atlanta Braves just in time for their spring training opener. The injured left-hander is still a ways off from using the mound at the club’s new spring home, though.
Hamels signed an $18 million, one-year deal with Atlanta this offseason but informed the team just before camp started that he was experiencing shoulder discomfort during training. The 36-year-old was sent to Dallas to get treatment from surgeon Keith Meister.
Now he’s back but says he’s waiting for inflammation in the shoulder “to calm down.” He expects to remain in North Port after Atlanta breaks camp for opening day.
“I know I’m behind the 8-ball,” he said. “But once I knock (the inflammation) out right away, I know I’ll be able to be the best pitcher I can and put up good numbers.
“I need to come back at 100%. This is an extremely talented team so I when I come in to take over a spot, I want to be ready.”
The 14-year-veteran went 7-7 with a 3.81 ERA last season with the Chicago Cubs. Atlanta was certainly hoping he might top last year’s output of 141 2/3 innings, but that may be in question after his shoulder flared up doing weighted ball drills.
“It hit a point where I couldn’t get past (the pain),” Hamels said. “Soreness is good but you have to know what’s good and what’s bad. I wasn’t feeling as good as I thought I should and I couldn’t overcome it without asking the right questions.”
Braves manager Brian Snitker said he and the staff will be patient with Hamels’ progression.
“We want to make sure he’s right,” Snitker said. “We have a great program. Our strength and conditioning and medical people know what they’re doing. We’ve been patient before and we’ll be patient now. When we get him back, we want him back.”
After a soft opening last season, CoolToday Park had its grand opening Saturday.
The $125 million facility — the most expensive single-team spring-training facility ever built — features a 55,000-square-foot clubhouse, and players say they’re enjoying the weight room, too.
After 22 years at ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Lake Buena Vista, the Braves are enjoying the spacious new spring home.
“We have 68 guys in the clubhouse and you can’t tell,” Snitker said. “You can sit and eat and you’re not on top of the other. We can have meetings because we don’t have walls.”
The location is also a plus. They will spend less time on the road — no more leaving at dawn from Orlando for road trips.
“Now we’re playing games against nine other teams within 20 minutes to an hour, 15 minutes,” said Chip Moore, Atlanta’s executive vice president of minor league affiliates and strategic planning.
Catcher Tyler Flowers said that’ll allow him and players to do what they did in Arizona – getting in a workout before getting on a bus.
“I remember the Marlins and Cardinals last year, that was 3 ½ hours,” he said. “We’d be leaving Orlando at 6 a.m., get there, warm up and get in the cage a little bit. You’d go there, it takes three hours, you play five innings, then it takes you another three hours coming back.”
Orlando traffic, particular Interstate 4, also wasted a lot of time.
“It’s the worst,” third baseman Austin Riley said. “The Braves set you up six to seven miles away but it would take you 30 minutes to get there. Now it’s five minutes. That’s huge for sleep and recovery.”
Felix Hernandez needed 30 pitches — 17 strikes — to get through the first two innings. He struck out two, walked one and showed good movement on his pitches. He also had a wild pitch.
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