Left-hander Cole Hamels is eager to fill the void as pitchers and catchers report to spring training Wednesday.
The 36-year-old Hamels, who signed a one-year, $18 million deal with Atlanta on Dec. 4, brings much-needed experience to a young rotation that also includes Mike Soroka, Max Fried and Mike Foltynewicz.
Soroka, who could be the team's Opening Day pitcher, is only 22. Fried is 26. Foltynewicz is 28.
Hamels wants to be a resource for the young starters. He remembers such veterans as Roy Halladay setting the example for him when he broke into the major leagues with the Philadelphia Phillies in 2006.
"When I came up, I was very fortunate to have an organization that looked into what veteran leadership is," Hamels said last month. "They surrounded me with some of the best players and pitchers that I could ever been around. Roy Halladay, [Roy] Oswalt, Cliff Lee, Jamie Moyer, those are great guys to learn from, and I think it helped me elevate my game and become a better pitcher."
Almost every starting pitcher in camp is much younger than Hamels.
Felix Hernandez, the former Seattle Mariners standout who will be in camp on a minor league contract as he tries to revive his career, also can be a role model for young pitchers. Hernandez, who turns 34 in April, may compete with Sean Newcomb and rookie right-handers Kyle Wright, Ian Anderson and Bryse Wilson for the No. 5 spot in the rotation.
"You can't see it all in this game, but they've come pretty close to seeing it all," Anderson said of Hamels and Hernandez.
Hamels should be especially helpful for Fried and Newcomb, left-handers who say they can't wait to watch the veteran work. Fried said Hamels "is the person I'm most frequently compared to."
Fried wants to learn more about Hamels' changeup.
"Obviously, one of his biggest weapons is one I've been working on for a long time, so I'm excited to pick his brain on the changeup," Fried said.
Hamels said it's only fair that he share knowledge from his long career. After all, he said he picked up tips about pitching mechanics as a kid by watching former longtime Braves left-hander Tom Glavine, another master of the changeup, when most Atlanta games were televised by TBS.
"He was somebody I really looked at and wanted to have some similarities," Hamels said of Glavine. "The changeup was a pitch I knew the importance of. It's helped me to this day. ... I tried to emulate his mechanics a little bit."
Hamels was 7-7 with a 3.81 ERA in 27 starts with the Cubs last season. He was 6-3 with a 2.98 ERA in the first half before posting a 5.79 ERA in the second half.
He said he rushed his return from an oblique injury last season and won't make that mistake again. That's one of many lessons he said he is eager to share because "I know where I'm at" as a veteran.
"I'm hopefully able to introduce some of the experiences I have, what's really gotten me to where I am today, and see if guys can learn from some of the advice that I have," Hamels said.
Pitchers and catchers will have their first workout Thursday at the Braves' new spring training home in North Port, Florida. Position players report Monday, and the first full-squad workout is next Tuesday.