Hamels stops throwing program, citing 'fatigue'

Phillies pitcher Cole Hamels. (David Maialetti/Staff Photographer)
Phillies pitcher Cole Hamels. (David Maialetti/Staff Photographer)
Posted: March 08, 2014

LAKELAND, Fla. - A small lake formed adjacent to the visitors' clubhouse at Joker Marchant Stadium, where half of the Phillies watched the rain fall after busing 54 miles. Ben Revere posted selfies to Instagram. The game against Detroit was postponed eight minutes after its slated start time.

The problems poured all morning. Cole Hamels was unfit to oppose batters in a controlled setting for the first time this spring. So manager Ryne Sandberg and his boss, Ruben Amaro Jr., were forced to contemplate the immediate future without their $144 million lefthanded ace.

The 2014 season begins in less than a month, and Amaro issued a familiar plea heard during the previous two seasons of failures.

"It affects us," the general manager said. "But again, however long he's out, we have to play. We have to play baseball games. People have to step up and perform. It's as simple as that."

Hamels halted his throwing program, citing "fatigue" in his recovery from biceps tendinitis. He threw three bullpen sessions before his body buckled. The breaking point was Saturday, his last activity.

"I believe I threw 35 pitches," Hamels said. "To my body, it felt like a thousand."

The Phillies, until this moment, believed Hamels would miss two or three starts and slot into the rotation in early April.

"He's doing fine," Sandberg said Tuesday night when asked about Hamels' progress. Their plans must change.

Amaro would not indicate a best-case scenario - or any timetable - for Hamels' return. Hamels wants to throw again next week, but it will not be against batters. He would not commit to pitching in April when asked if it was possible.

"That's the last thing I'm going to think about," Hamels said. "Ultimately, I just want to get back out and get on the mound and see how I'm going to fare there."

There is no structural damage or any reason to think a greater problem is afoot, Amaro insisted. The team did not order another MRI exam for Hamels. A two-week winter illness after a diagnosis of biceps tendinitis sapped the lefthander of necessary energy. Hamels lost "10 to 15 pounds," Amaro said.

Hamels' streak of durability - he started at least 31 games in each of the last six seasons - is in jeopardy. The 30-year-old pitcher said there is no pain in his shoulder. He likened his current status to that of a dead arm.

"I wasn't able to build up the normal strength that I have in a normal offseason lifting program or throwing program," Hamels said. "So I'm trying to get it all in a short period of time and something's going to give. My body kind of told me, 'Hey, you've got to take a step back, start back over. You're not ready to push it to the next level right at this moment.' "

Hamels said he was healthy when he arrived at camp but admitted he was weeks behind his teammates. He threw three bullpen sessions and Phillies officials expected him to pitch in a Grapefruit League game as soon as next week. Pitching coach Bob McClure told Amaro that Hamels threw well Saturday. He did not feel well, though.

The Phillies' chances of contending in 2014 are dependent on health. Their strategy was to ride a $63.5 million trio of pitchers to contention. Now, after Cliff Lee and A.J. Burnett, there are sinkerballers Kyle Kendrick and Roberto Hernandez, and uncertainty. A four-man rotation is probable for the season's first two weeks.

This winter, Amaro stressed the importance of a quick start for a franchise with towering expenditures and meager expectations. Sandberg opted for a different view Thursday as the raindrops fell.

"I want Cole for the long haul," Sandberg said. "I want him right. It's a marathon of a season. When he's right, he's right. When his body allows him to move forward, then we'll have him for the long haul."


mgelb@phillynews.com

@magelb www.inquirer.com/

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