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On the Seventh Day…REST!

Posted By Christopher Rowe On Aug 16 2011 @ 10:58 am In Philadelphia Phillies | 2 Comments

Cole Hamels’ tight left shoulder in his last start Friday against the Washington Nationals became enough of a concern Monday that he underwent an MRI examination, according to a report on csnphilly.com. Attempts to confirm that report through the Phillies have been so far unsuccessful. This could mean the reports are inconclusive, the MRI found nothing or the team is keeping these results from the public for other reasons.

Eventually what it boiled down to was a so-called “inflammation behind Hamels’ rotator cuff” which should not be confused with a rotator cuff injury. Think about an inflammation of the tonsils vs. a broken jawbone. This is a minor issue that could very well subside with rest. Optimistically Hamels could miss one start and be recovered. Pessimistically he could miss multiple starts and still have it flare up at any time.

Hamels, 13-7 with a 2.62 ERA, is in the midst of his best season, but after allowing three runs on six hits and four walks in Friday’s loss to the Washington Nationals, he said he had trouble getting loose. Hamels shrugged off the problem as nothing major as he experienced the same “tightness” prior to his previous start in San Francisco.

“It’s just that part of the year,” he said. “It’s kind of something when you fatigue a little bit and you have to battle through it and move on to the next game.”

Conventional wisdom would suggest that the Phillies err on the side of caution, offering to skip Hamels in the rotation once or twice for the long term good of the team. Vance Worley or Kyle Kendrick would be happy to step in for a chance to remain with the big league club. Roy Oswalt is recuperating from two stints on the DL this season and may need to be eased back onto the fast track so perhaps spelling either Oswalt or Hamels once a month would not be a bad move. Charlie Manuel is infamous for not resting his starting eight but has found the need to adjust that philosophy in 2011. Chase Utley missed all of Spring Training plus two months of the season. Placido Polanco and Shane Victorino have missed about a month and Carlos Ruiz went through a rehab assignment too. Roy Oswalt, Brad Lidge and Ryan Madson have all missed time this season (Lidge missed all of Spring Training and the first half of the 2011 season) but all have returned in good form for the rest. Danys Baez and JC Romero have already been displaced by Michael Stutes and Antonio Bastardo.

Since the Phillies currently hold an 8-1/2 game lead over second-place Atlanta and at 78-41 Philadelphia sports the best record in baseball. With 6 weeks to go in the regular season, the Phillies have the chance to spend that time wisely and prepare for their postseason run. Rest Ryan Howard, Carlos Ruiz, Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins and Raul Ibanez one day a week. Let Ross Gload, Brian Schneider, Ben Francisco, Wilson Valdez and Michael Martinez get some valuable at bats. Bring up Domonic Brown, Scott Podsednik, Pete Orr and Brandon Moss to spell the big boys in September to find out who will be a valuable bench player. Take the time to decide how to organize the bullpen, the starting rotation and the bench because if there is any question on this very successful 2011 Phillies team, it is the bench. Ross Gload has been limited all season to pinch hitting only as he can’t run or play the field. Domonic Brown has been up and down between Lehigh Valley and Philadelphia while Ben Francisco started the season as the starting rightfielder and now might not make the postseason roster.

The Phillies will host the Arizona Diamondbacks while playing mostly against the NL East this month and won’t really play a meaningful September game unless they suffer a Mauchian collapse. Finding the bench candidates and potential Designated Hitter and settling the bullpen will come in the form of trial by fire. Ben Francisco proved in 2009 that he is not going to shake the universe as a World Series DH but perhaps Placido Polanco would be a reasonable choice. Does that mean Michael Martinez and Wilson Valdez are in the lineup as defensive specialists or does veteran Pete Orr (who has been playing third in AAA) make his resurgence? Will Domonic Brown make the postseason roster and will Ross Gload offer enough as a Kirk Gibson-style pinch hitting specialist? What about David Herndon, Juan Cruz, Kyle Kendrick and Vance Worley? Will Roy Oswalt and Hamels join Cliff Lee and Roy Halladay or will Four Aces be an ensemble effort from among six candidates?

Time will tell so long as Manuel opens the door of opportunity.

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