Hampton solid in final spring start

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ATLANTA --- 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.

Jake Westbrook wrapped up a perfect spring with four scoreless innings. The right-hander pitched 18 innings this spring without allowing a run.

The numbers weren't as important to Hampton, who missed the past 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.

YANKEES: Left-hander Andy Pettitte reported no problems one day after throwing 25 pitches off a bullpen mound.

Pettitte will pitch in a minor league game today.

Originally slated to start the Yankees' second game of the regular season, Pettitte has been slowed by back spasms.

ORIOLES: Baltimore still was trying to figure out what to do about Jay Gibbons after his 15-day suspension to start the season was put on hold by Major League Baseball. Manager Dave Trembley said he will take as much time as he has to make a decision.

Gibbons was linked to performance-enhancing drugs and has admitted receiving a shipment of human growth hormone in 2005.

ROYALS: A groin strain has put Hideo Nomo 's comeback bid with Kansas City on hold.

Nomo is headed to Arizona for physical therapy on the right groin muscle he injured this week. But the 39-year-old doesn't think the injury will end his attempt to return after spending the past two seasons out of the major leagues.

NATIONALS: First baseman Nick Johnson and second baseman Ronnie Belliard were picked by manager Manny Acta to start for Washington.

Johnson had been competing with Dmitri Young for the first base job. Johnson missed the 2007 season with a broken leg.

Belliard was in competition with Felipe Lopez .

ASTROS: Woody Williams was put on unconditional release waivers. The 41-year-old right-hander was 8-15 with a 5.27 ERA last season and had an 11.32 ERA in spring training this year.

RAYS: Purchased the contract of infielder Eric Hinske from Triple-A Durham and said he will start Monday's season opener at Baltimore in right field.


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