Phillies Notes: Hamels the poster boy for struggling Phillies starters

Posted: June 16, 2012

MINNEAPOLIS - There was no use dancing around the subject for Charlie Manuel. The manager had presided over a dominant pitching staff in 2011, and with much of the same personnel returning in 2012, he envisioned something similar.

"For our staff to be struggling," Manuel said Thursday, "that's kind of unexpected."

Granted, it was hard to expect the Phillies to post the same numbers as in 2011, when they allowed fewer runs per game than any Phillies team since 1917. But the starting staff had a 5.70 ERA in its previous 24 games entering Thursday. That is a far cry from average, let alone dominant.

Manuel was vague with his diagnosis, preferring to say: "I don't reveal all of my opinions." Pitching coach Rich Dubee claimed "focus" was an issue for the starters, including Cole Hamels, who was shelled Wednesday and still earned a victory.

"It pertains to everybody on our team," Dubee said.

Hamels was angry even as his teammates celebrated winning Wednesday.

"I definitely won't enjoy the moment," he said. "Maybe that's being selfish, but it's hard to when you're still in last place and you don't put good starts together. That's quite a few in a row. They're not good moments."

Hamels has a 6.08 ERA in his last four starts, and he has failed to complete seven innings in each of his last three outings. He pitched to three batters in the seventh of Wednesday's 9-8 win over Minnesota before Manuel came with the hook.

Hamels said he simply cannot repeat his delivery, and that makes for inconsistent pitch location. He does not believe it's a product of poor mechanics because of the sporadic nature.

"I feel like it comes and goes," Hamels said. "I feel like I have innings where things are working well and I'm hitting my spots. Then all of a sudden, I can't hit a spot to save my life. Sometimes, you can get away with it unscathed. Unfortunately, I'm not getting away with it at all, and it definitely hurts."

Dubee said there was no one answer for Hamels' fleeting problems. The lefthander agreed. He put the burden of a scuffling staff on his shoulders.

"It's not the right time to have poor starts when the team isn't doing that well," Hamels said. "We can't afford that."

Using Papelbon

On Wednesday, Jonathan Papelbon recorded a save of four outs or more for the second time this season. He's the first Phillies pitcher to do that since Ryan Madson in 2009, and Manuel offered a small window into his thinking on how he'll use Papelbon.

The manager does not expect to ever need Papelbon for a two-inning save unless entirely desperate.

"In two innings sometimes he could throw 35 to 40 pitches," Manuel said. "If he does that, do you know how many days we lose him for? At least two and probably three. And that's why you don't use him for two innings."

Manuel said if he had better late-inning setup men, he could use Papelbon differently - perhaps in tie games on the road. But without any bona fide No. 2 option at closer, he will restrict Papelbon to those situations.

Extra bases

Jim Thome became the oldest Phillies player - 41 years, 291 days - to have a four-RBI game with his performance Wednesday. The previous oldest was Matt Stairs, who did it at 41 years, 195 days in 2009. . . . Chad Qualls struck out three batters Wednesday but recorded only two outs because of a wild pitch. He was the first Phillies pitcher ever to do that.

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