Cramping rotation’s style: Cubs’ Hammel (hamstring) leaves start

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Jason Hammel (center) listens to manager Joe Maddon (right) just before leaving Monday’s start with cramping in his right hamstring.

Cubs starter Jason Hammel, an early contender for his first All-Star selection, left Monday’s start against the Dodgers because of what he and the Cubs hope is nothing worse than a right hamstring cramp.

“At this particular moment we think he’s going to be fine for his next start,” manager Joe Maddon said.

Hammel, who struck out looking in his only at-bat, in the bottom of the second, began having trouble a few minutes later as he tried to warm up for the start of the third inning, grabbing his leg and going to the ground.

After several minutes being examined behind the mound by the trainer, he threw a few more warmups, shook his leg, paused and threw again, then left the game.

“Obviously, we’ll wait and see how it feels [Tuesday], but I’m very optimistic that it was just a cramp,” Hammel (6-1) said. “I honestly felt like I drank the equivalent of Lake Michigan last night, because once it starts to get pretty humid and hot here I always hydrate really well.

“I really don’t understand why I cramped.”

Hammel entered the day with the National League’s fifth-best ERA and then lowered it to 2.09.

The Cubs’ rotation has been the backbone of the team’s 35-14 start and plus-133 run differential.

The starting corps leads the majors with a 2.47 rotation ERA, and led the NL-leading with 6.4 innings per start until Monday’s shortest of the year.

Hammel’s one of three Cubs with ERAs among the top eight in the NL (Jake Arrieta, 1.72; Jon Lester, 2.48).

If Hammel needs to miss a start to fully recover, Wood – the former All-Star starter who lost his starting job a year ago this month – said he’s ready to step in.

Maddon said he would go to Wood or right-hander Trevor Cahill, the two most stretched out among the Cubs’ four long relievers/backup starters.

Hammel flirted with All-Star consideration last year before a left leg injury in July pushed back a start and hampered much of the rest of his season. He had a 2.86 ERA in the first half and 5.10 in the second.

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