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The Braves got some bad news to start spring training Wednesday morning as manager Brian Snitker announced that newly signed starting pitcher Cole Hamels will miss at least three weeks with a shoulder issue. Hamels evidently irritated his shoulder with weighted balls over the offseason. He will stay in Dallas and be re-evaluated the first week of March. That will be a little over three weeks from the start of the regular season on March 26th, so it puts Hamels in jeopardy to start the season on the injured list. We know how it goes when pitchers are slowed in spring training – just think about Mike Foltynewicz and A.J. Minter last year. Plus, Hamels is 36 years old, meaning the Braves will probably be even more careful, especially since Hamels had shoulder fatigue late last season. So, the players were barely unpacked in their new lockers at the new spring training facility before the Braves must deal with an issue. At first thought, the Braves have plenty of internal options. Two pitchers – Sean Newcomb and Felix Hernandez – were considered the favorites for the fifth starter’s competition. They’ll both likely get even more of a look now, and if both Newcomb and Hernandez do well, they could fill two spots if Hamels were to miss more time. The Braves can also evaluate Bryse Wilson and Kyle Wright, two young pitchers who have had cups of coffee in Atlanta but were expected to start the season in Triple-A Gwinnett. Ian Anderson is the top pitching prospect, and he is also expected to start in Gwinnett, but a strong spring training could change that. The Braves brought back Josh Tomlin Wednesday morning on a minor league contract. He’s a former starting pitcher who was the Braves long reliever last year, so he could also be a candidate. – This is the gamble the Braves took by signing a veteran like Hamels to a one-year contract. I’m a huge Hamels fan, but I said all offseason the best candidate was Madison Bumgarner, who is 30 years old. There is a big difference for a pitcher between 36 and 30. There were already concerns about Atlanta’s rotation, and many believed if things went south for one reason or another, the rotation was an area general manager Alex Anthopoulos could address in a trade during the season. But now, that worry is increased with Hamels’ injury. The Braves fixed the bullpen with moves late last season and with the addition of Will Smith, the best free agent reliever on the market. Only signing Hamels put pressure on the internal options to come through for this team, and it will be needed now more than ever with Hamels possibly out. The Braves must have a good season from Mike Foltynewicz. Young pitchers Mike Soroka and Max Fried must do what they did last year and more. And perhaps someone else, like Newcomb, Hernandez or one of the kids, must step up. Atlanta’s division, the NL East, has two teams – Washington and New York – with excellent rotations. If the Braves are to win their third straight division title, the starters must better than last season, and that’s going to be a challenge with Hamels dealing with this issue. Injuries are part of baseball, and how a team deals with injuries can sometime define a season. Let’s hope this bad news on the first day of spring training is not something that will haunt the Braves for the 2020 season.