The Atlanta Braves had expected to have Cole Hamels available for 162 games when they signed him to a one-year $18 million contract. Now the club is happy the veteran left-hander will finally be available, even if it is Game 50 of a 60-game season.
Hamels will make his season debut on Wednesday when the visiting Braves play the finale of a three-game series against the Baltimore Orioles. Left-hander Keegan Akin (0-1, 4.61 ERA) will opposed the 36-year-old Hamels.
Baltimore (21-27) has won the last three series against the Braves (29-20).
"These are some of those older guys we were counting on to carry some of that starting load," Atlanta manager Brian Snitker told reporters. "Now we're finally getting them back."
In addition to Hamels, the Braves expect to get No. 1 starter Max Fried back on Friday. The left-hander missed a start with back spasms and was placed on the injured list as a precautionary measure.
Hamels missed spring training with left shoulder inflammation and most of summer camp with left triceps tendinitis. He has not pitched in a game since Sept. 28, 2019. The Braves will limit Hamels to three or four innings, between 55-60 pitches, in his first appearance.
"I know this is kind of my spring training," Hamels said. "But I know what it takes to focus, to be able to get outs, to minimize damage, put up zeroes and try to pitch as long as I can under a pitch count."
The Atlanta rotation needs all the help it can get. The Braves have had a starter go three innings or less in 13 games. The team has had back-to-back six-inning starts only three times this season. The result has been a stressed-out bullpen.
Touki Toussaint was the latest to flame out; he lasted only 2 2/3 innings on Monday and was sent to the alternate training site on Tuesday morning. Huascar Ynoa, who started Tuesday, had his best outing of the season with four scoreless innings, but left the game early with pain in his lower back.
Akin will be making the fourth start of his career. In his last outing on Sept. 11 at New York, he suffered the loss in his shortest outing (two-thirds of an inning), allowing four runs on three hits and one walk against the Yankees. He was lifted after throwing just 39 pitches.
"It wasn't good," Akin said. "Some things didn't go my way."
Akin has never faced Atlanta.
Two of the hottest hitters in the league are Atlanta first baseman Freddie Freeman and Baltimore shortstop Jose Iglesias.
Freeman was 3-for-5 on Tuesday with two doubles and padded his league-leading RBI total to 46. He extended his hitting streak to 10 games and his on-base streak to 31 games.
Iglesias was 2-for-4 on Tuesday and increased his batting average to .374. According to Elias Sports Bureau, on Monday when he went 4-for-4 with four RBIs, he became the first Baltimore starting shortstop to be perfect at the plate with at least four RBIs in a regular-season game since Chico Salmon on Aug. 16, 1969.
--Field Level Media