Originally created 03/03/03

Hampton pitches well in Braves debut



KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- Mike Hampton pitched two scoreless innings in his Atlanta debut and the Braves beat the Montreal Expos 4-3 Sunday.

Hampton, acquired from Colorado in a three-way trade during the offseason, worked out of trouble in each inning. He allowed four hits and walked one batter.

"Results are all right, but I'm still a little inconsistent with my arm slot on my sinker," Hampton said after throwing 33 pitches.

"I feel it when I do it. I threw some ones that felt great. I try to get it through my thick head that if you continue to throw that way, you'll be happy with yourself. It's not all that easy. I'm happy with the results but still have a ways to go."

Braves manager Bobby Cox was more pleased with Hampton's outing.

"Those guys want to be perfect all the time," Cox said. "I don't know if he was perfect, but he was good. I liked him. He was free and easy, smooth, real good outing for him."

Hampton went 22-4 for Houston in 1999 and helped pitch the New York Mets into the World Series the following year.

He signed a $121 million, eight-year contract with Colorado - the biggest ever for a pitcher - before the 2001 season, but struggled mightily in two miserable seasons at hitter-friendly Coors Field.

With a welcome change of scenery, Hampton is hoping to regain his old form in Atlanta.

In the first inning, Hampton gave up consecutive one-out singles and a warning-track flyout to Orlando Cabrera before striking out Val Pascucci on a full count.

In the second, Montreal got a one-out double by Randy Knorr and a single by Henry Mateo. After a fielder's choice by pitcher Sunny Kim, Peter Bergeron walked to load the bases. Hampton got out of the inning when Jose Macias lined to right.

"The biggest thing is to take the positives out of this game and throw the negatives away and just keep moving forward," Hampton said. "It wasn't the greatest game in the history of the game but I did more things right."

Atlanta shortstop Rafael Furcal left in the first inning after hitting a double. Furcal sprained his ankle sliding into second base and will be examined further Monday. The injury did not appear to be serious.

Hampton and four relievers allowed 10 hits. The Braves held a 3-2 lead heading into the ninth, but Matt Cepicky tied it with a solo home run.

Atlanta pinch-hitter Ryan Langerhans singled in the bottom of the ninth, driving in Donzell McDonald with the winning run.

Hampton said he's using this spring to correct poor mechanical habits he developed the past two years playing in Colorado "trying to manufacture movement any way I could."

He went 21-28 with the Rockies, but he and pitching coach Leo Mazzone are working on getting Hampton's arm slot into its pre-Colorado position.

"To the naked eye, it might not be all that obvious, but it is to people around baseball," Hampton said. "I can tell when I do it. I continue to remind myself. If it were that easy (to fix), I'd whip this thing in one day. I did throw some right and I like the result, so it's progress."

Notes: Atlanta agreed to one-year contracts with INF Mike Hessman, C Johnny Estrada and P Jung Keun Bong. Every player in camp is now under contract. ... The start was delayed 55 minutes by rain. ... Cox was impressed with pitcher Bubba Nelson, who gave up one hit and an unearned run in two innings. "Bubba Nelson aired it out pretty good today," Cox said. "We've been waiting to see that. Now I know what they've been talking about." Nelson was 11-5 with a 1.72 ERA last year at Class A Myrtle Beach.