Phillies Notebook: Hamels' early exit Monday was because of pregame back discomfort

YONG KIM / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Nationals' Jayson Werth backs up after getting hit by a pitch in the second inning against the Phillies last night.
YONG KIM / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Nationals' Jayson Werth backs up after getting hit by a pitch in the second inning against the Phillies last night.
Posted: September 05, 2013

EYEBROWS raised when Cole Hamels came out of a 1-1 pitchers' duel with Stephen Strasburg after throwing only 87 pitches and allowing only two hits in seven innings on Monday night.

Heads were scratched when Hamels answered questions about it with a joke - a joke that went over a lot of those heads - saying he injured his back barhopping in Chicago.

So why exactly was he lifted?

Pitching coach Rich Dubee said Hamels felt some discomfort in his back during Monday's pregame bullpen session.

"He wasn't [feeling great]," Dubee said yesterday. "I thought when he warmed up, five [innings] might be good with where he was."

Why wasn't Hamels feeling great? A combination of things, according to Dubee.

He cited the travel, and the 118, 123 and 114 pitches in three of his previous four starts and noted that Hamels had not missed a turn in the rotation this season.

"Unfortunately, the facilities in Chicago [Wrigley Field] aren't the greatest, and he's an unbelievable preparer," Dubee said. "The weight room wasn't conducive to what he does, so he didn't have a great workout after his last start."

Dubee didn't think it was wise to push Hamels any further when he knew the pitcher wasn't feeling great.

Hamels entered yesterday ranked fifth in the major leagues in innings pitched (193). He's thrown 3,006 pitches in 29 starts; only five pitchers have thrown more pitches.

"And has he pitched an easy game yet?" Dubee said of the stress level of those innings. "Seriously?"

Lineup changes

Cesar Hernandez led off and started at second base last night against the Washington Nationals, while Freddy Galvis batted second and played shortstop.

Chase Utley and Jimmy Rollins, who have played second/ short together more than any other active middle-infield duo in baseball, were on the bench. It could be a continuing development in September.

"[Hernandez and Galvis] have been playing all year together at Lehigh Valley," manager Ryne Sandberg said. "It gives a chance to give J-Roll and Utley a bit of a break. Of course, those guys will be on the bench for late in the game. But it's all about having the players get a look, have them be evaluated to see how they'll fit in in 2014, and the only way to do that is to get them out there to play, see where they're at."

For Rollins, it was the fourth time in 19 games under Sandberg that he was out of the starting lineup; it was the third time for Utley.

With the Phillies out of the pennant race in the final 4 weeks of 2013, Sandberg said he could find more time to rest Rollins and Utley.

"As needed, as the schedule is and how things are going," Sandberg said of his plans. "As far as J-Roll and Chase, they'll have their string of games, but it will have to do with what I think they need at this point. And the schedule will have a lot to do with that . . . Freddy is here to get a look. He will get some playing time in the three infield positions. But shortstop is a natural position for him. I'll make up the lineup daily and see how that goes. But Cesar is [also] here to get some games under his belt, all of the guys [are]. Freddy also. They're here to get some games, get some looks."

Thumbs up for Rollins

Three weeks ago, after taking over for Charlie Manuel, Sandberg wanted to see improvements across the board from his players, but directed a lot of his words at Rollins, his underperforming shortstop and top-of-the-lineup hitter.

Three weeks later, Sandberg is happy in the improvements he's seen from the longest-tenured player on the roster.

"I've seen the working the counts," Sandberg began. "He's gotten on base with walks and he's applied his baserunning. I've also seen him with more balls being hit up the middle. I think he's had three or four opposite-field hits, from both sides of the plate. So I see him working on some things in the cage and him applying those into the game. But he's also been a spark, a spark running the bases and with some key hits."

Rollins went 0-for-14 in the first five games of Sandberg's managing career. He hit .239 (11-for-46) in the 13 games since, but also has a .397 OBP and 12 walks.

Top minor leaguers

Slugging third baseman Maikel Franco and rising pitching prospect Severino Gonzalez were announced as the 2013 recipients of the prestigious Paul Owens Awards for the top player and pitcher in the Phillies' farm system in 2013.

Franco, who turned 21 last month, hit .320 with a .926 OPS, 31 home runs and 103 RBI in 134 games between Class A Clearwater and Double A Reading. Among players in affiliated baseball, only six minor leaguers hit more home runs. Franco led all of minor league baseball with 308 total bases.

"His offensive production rivals any 20- or 21-year-old in minor league baseball," player development director Joe Jordan said. "He has become a very dangerous and productive hitter."

Gonzalez, 20, went 7-5 with a 2.00 ERA in 25 games (14 starts) between Low A Lakewood, Clearwater and Reading. Gonzalez struck out 119 in 103 2/3 innings.

"His fastball can go both ways," assistant general manager Benny Looper said. "He cuts it and he sinks it. In a sense, he's trying to emulate Mariano [Rivera] and his cutter. He looks underdeveloped. He's going to get bigger and stronger. He can really pitch."

Aumont disappointing

While Gonzalez and Franco were the stars of the minor league system, reliever Phillippe Aumont arguably had the most disappointing season.

Aumont, who began the year in the Phillies' bullpen, had a 4.04 ERA in 32 games at Triple A Lehigh Valley and walked 38 batters, while striking out 42, in 35 2/3 innings. Aumont, 24, called his season "garbage" to the Allentown Morning Call and wondered what future he had with the Phillies after he wasn't among the team's September call-ups.

"If I'm not in their plans, I don't want to be back. But if I am . . . I want to be with the Phillies, but, at the same time, if they've moved on [from me] or whatever, then I think it's time for me to move on," Aumont told the Morning Call. "There's 29 other teams out there and plenty of other opportunities out there."

Looper was asked about Aumont yesterday.

"I'm sure he was disappointed he wasn't called up," Looper said. "But he didn't deserve to get called up. Deep down, he knows that. But we haven't given up on him."


On Twitter: @ryanlawrence21

Blog: ph.ly/HighCheese

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