Healing Hamels on track to make his next start

Posted: April 25, 2009

MIAMI — Cole Hamels walked briskly through the visitors' clubhouse at Dolphin Stadium yesterday afternoon and offered a quick "no comment" when asked how he felt. But team trainer Scott Sheridan examined the Phillies' ace yesterday morning and said Hamels was on track to make his scheduled start Tuesday against Washington.

"Sounds like he's doing pretty good," manager Charlie Manuel said of the 25-year-old lefthander. Hamels was struck in the back of his left shoulder by a line drive off the bat of Milwaukee's Prince Fielder on Thursday, yet another small setback in a frustrating spring for him. After experiencing inflammation in his pitching elbow in mid-March, Hamels was unable to regain his arm strength and command in time for the regular season and is 0-2 with a 9.69 earned run average.

Pitching coach Rich Dubee said yesterday that Hamels showed improvement before Thursday's fourth-inning mishap. "He's coming, he's coming," Dubee said. "It was another setback, just because he only threw 45 pitches . . . but he's getting there."

As per his standard between-start schedule, Hamels played long-toss yesterday and is set to throw a bullpen session today. Dubee said that he would evaluate the pitcher after those activities, but would be surprised to find any problems.

Manuel said he felt it was important for Hamels to remain in the rotation, after so many delays and setbacks. "I think it's good for him to get on a routine," the manager said.

No changes at the top

If the Phillies are searching for root causes of their offensive inconsistency, the need look no further than the top two spots in their batting order. Jimmy Rollins (.206) and Shane Victorino (.323) have the two lowest on-base percentages in the Phils' regular lineup.

Although middle-of-the-order hitters Chase Utley, Ryan Howard, Jayson Werth, Raul Ibanez and seventh-place hitter Pedro Feliz have enjoyed mostly productive Aprils, Rollins and Victorino have failed to reach base in the vast majority of their plate appearances. This limits RBI opportunities for their sluggers and cripples the running game, in which Rollins and Victorino are supposed to be the primary participants (through 14 games, the Phils had stolen seven bases, 11th in the National League).

Manuel said that when Rollins and Victorino struggle, "we cannot use the speed we got, because that right there is our speed.

"I used to put Werth up there [in the second spot last season] because he had a .400 on-base percentage," Manuel said. "But then you have a problem in the middle of your lineup running the lefties together."

Homer happy

The Phillies have surrendered at least one home run in each of the team's first 15 games this season, which, according to the Elias Sports Bureau, is a major-league record. The old record was 13 by the 2001 Milwaukee Brewers.

Dubee attributed the dubious distinction to "a lot of mistakes. A lot of mistakes when you're up in the count 0-2, 1-2. A lot of mistakes when you're 0-0 and are over the plate."

Romero in Miami

Lefthanded reliever J.C. Romero, serving a 50-game suspension for violating the league's substance-abuse policy, worked out with the team yesterday and will remain in Miami during the weekend series against the Marlins. Romero is permitted to be on the field and in the clubhouse before games. He has been in extended spring training in Clearwater, Fla., throwing regularly and remaining in shape.

Romero said that while he was angry about the suspension - which he perceives to be unfair because he claims that he ingested an over-the-counter supplement without knowing it contained a banned substance - the death of Angels pitcher Nick Adenhart changed his perspective. Adenhart was killed by a drunk driver April 9. "Just when you think you got it bad, somebody has it worse," said Romero, who does not get paid during his suspension.

Dog day evening

Last night, the Marlins encouraged fans to bring their dogs to Dolphin Stadium, an apparent attempt to fill a few more seats. Total attendance: 29,034, including 1,540 dogs. Seriously.

Contact staff writer Andy Martino at 215-854-4874 or amartino@phillynews.com.

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