Mike Hampton turns in encouraging outing in Atlanta's 4-2 loss to

By: associated press
By: associated press

JUPITER, Fla. (AP) -- Mike Hampton is back on track to open the season in the Atlanta Braves' rotation.

Hampton allowed a run and two hits over 4 1-3 innings in a 4-2 loss to the Saint Louis Cardinals today.

The left-hander's encouraging performance came 10 days after he had to leave a start with a slight right groin pull.

He threw 75 pitches in his longest outing of the spring. His previous best was only two innings in his exhibition debut on March second.

Anthony Reyes also turned in his strongest start of the spring, allowing three hits in four scoreless innings for Saint Louis. Reyes, 2-14 last year, is competing for a spot at the end of an injury-wracked rotation that was bolstered last week when Kyle Lohse signed a one-year free-agent contract.

Hampton left his March seventh start against the Tigers after only four outs, and threw a 59-pitch simulated game on Wednesday. He missed all of last season with an elbow injury.

Either Reyes or Brad Thompson, who starts on Wednesday after going 8-6 with a 4.73 ERA last year, is likely to get the fifth spot in the Cardinals rotation. Reyes is trying not to think about it.

Reyes was successful despite continuing health woes. He missed a start earlier in the spring due to flulike symptoms, and he was battling the cold as well as the Braves.

Rick Ankiel, who's batting .362 heading into his first full season as a starting outfielder, hit a go-ahead, two-run double off Atlanta's Blaine Boyer in the sixth inning. Boyer has lost his last two outings.

Right fielder Jeff Francoeur was not with the Braves, a day after he was beaned by Todd Wellemeyer and escaped with a busted lip. Francoeur returned to Orlando and was hopeful of returning to the lineup on Wednesday or Thursday.

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