Braves: The plan for Cole Hamels’ return

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Tomorrow, the Braves are expected to activate Cole Hamels off the 45-day IL to debut with the team. It will be his first start since September 28th of last season with the Cubs — a game in which he struck out eight Cardinals in just four innings without allowing a run.

After Hamels signed a one-year, $18 million contract with the Braves this offseason, it has been one injury after another for the 36-year-old. First, it was shoulder problems that lingered for much longer than expected. Then, tricep tendinitis landed him on the 45-day IL right before the restart of the season.

That is not what any team wants to see out of one of their prized offseason signings. However, if the Braves can get production out of Hamels in the postseason, nobody will care how much he was paid. They didn’t need the lefty to get to October, but they will need him to do damage once they get there. That process begins tomorrow, as the Braves hope he can take another step forward without any setbacks.

According to MLB.com’s Mark Bowman, Hamels is expected to be limited to 55-60 pitches against the Orioles.

As Bowman also states, Hamels could be up to 90 pitches in his final outing of the regular season. He’ll have the opportunity to make two more starts following his Wednesday debut, which means he might be ready to throw 100+ pitches in the postseason.

By October, the Braves will have little reason to hold him back, and at 36-years-old, Hamels could view this as his best chance at another World Series. As competitive as he is — if he’s feeling good — he will want to stay on the mound as long as he is effective.

There is no reason to get ahead of ourselves. None of that will be possible if Hamels doesn’t look sharp in his next few outings. However, the Braves have been extra cautious with him, preparing for this moment, and it could pay significant dividends when the stakes are the highest.

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