ATLANTA - A five-inning, 75-pitch simulated game didn't give Mike Hampton and the Atlanta Braves any ultimate answer Wednesday regarding how to use the on-the-mend left-hander.
Hampton said he impressed enough with the simulated game that he thought he was ready to return to at least the bullpen if not the starting rotation.
Prior to talking with Hampton, manager Bobby Cox said that he'd like to see him in one more simulated game before activating him.
"I don't know what we're going to do," Cox said. "I just hope he's healthy."
Hampton has been on the disabled list four times this season for nagging injuries to his left forearm, left knee and back. The herniated disc is what has had him on the DL since Aug. 20.
He's 5-3 with a 3.50 ERA in just 12 starts this year.
The five innings to live hitters - Adam LaRoche, Peter Orr, Eddie Perez and Andy Marte - were encouraging steps, though, he said.
"Everything felt pretty solid," Hampton said. "Who knows what's going to happen from pitch to pitch and day to day? ... But right now I feel pretty good. I think I can help this team."
Just how remains to be seen. Hampton had a conversation this past weekend with pitching coach Leo Mazzone about him throwing a few relief innings.
SMOLTZ HONORED: John Smoltz was named the Braves' recipient of the Roberto Clemente Award, presented to a player from each major league team that is dedicated to helping others in the community. Smoltz is now one of 30 nominees for the national award.
Among various other charities the starter's worked with, Smoltz has partnered up with the Atlanta Community Food Bank for 13 years. He's helped to raise more than $1 million in that time.
He donates $100 to the food bank for every strikeout he records. With 153 strikeouts, he's given $15,300 already this year.
GRIFFEY'S STATUS: The Cincinnati Reds expect Ken Griffey Jr. to play again this season after the star center fielder strained his right foot rounding second base.
Griffey has been listed as day to day since Sunday, when he rolled his foot during the 12th inning of Cincinnati's 8-3 win at Atlanta. The team said Monday an MRI revealed the strain.
Trainer Mark Mann said it would be "premature at this point" to say surgery would be necessary, and "we fully expect him to play again in the 2005 season."
Two years ago, Griffey required season-ending surgery on his right ankle.
"The MRI showed nothing like what he had a couple of years ago with his ankle," Mann said. "It's not as if he pulled it off the bone. It does show inflammation in the area. A strain by definition does involve inflammation of the tissue, and it can be associated with a tear."