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Baseball: Hampton feeling good after Braves’ win

Associated Press
ATLANTAó Mike Hampton made it through the final game of spring training without any problems. Now, it’s on to his first regular-season start since 2005.
Hampton pitched three innings for Atlanta, allowing four hits and a run in the Braves’ 5-4 win over the Cleveland Indians on Saturday in a game that was called in the seventh inning because of rain.
The numbers weren’t as important to Hampton, who missed the last two seasons after two major elbow operations. This is the final season of the eight-year, $121 million contract he signed with Colorado before the 2001 season.
“I feel good about where I’m at,” said Hampton, who posted a 2.16 ERA in five spring starts and overcame the minor setback of a strained groin. “I feel good about my stuff. I accomplished what I needed to accomplish.”
Hampton will make his first start on Thursday against the Pittsburgh Pirates. The Braves are counting on him to bolster a rotation that didn’t have much depth a year ago beyond Tim Hudson and John Smoltz.
“Nothing was hit hard off him,” Braves manager Bobby Cox said. “He really had a terrific spring.”
Two of the four hits off Hampton were infield singles. He gave up three straight hits in the second with two outs, including Casey Blake’s run-scoring single.
The game was halted for 64 minutes because of heavy rain and lightning. When play resumed, the Indians scored three more runs in the sixth for a 4-0 lead, then allowed five runs to the Braves during a sloppy seventh with the rain coming down harder and harder.
After Atlanta went ahead on Brent Lillibridge’s RBI single, Cleveland manager Eric Wedge came out to make a pitching change. Instead, the teams decided to call the game to prevent the risk of injury on the damp field.
Besides, the Braves had a plane to catch. The team headed straight to the airport for its season opener, a rare one-game appearance at Washington to christen the Nationals’ new stadium Sunday night. Then, it’s back to Atlanta for the home opener Monday against the Pittsburgh Pirates.

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