Fans of the Philadelphia Phillies have heard this word before and will probably hear it again:
Pitcher Cole Hamels suffered a “setback” when his scheduled throwing session on Thursday was canceled because of what he described as a “fatigued arm.” Hamels was supposed to pitch live batting practice.
Two years ago, second baseman Chase Utley went into the season with high hopes and ready to go before he suffered a “setback” with a chronic knee condition and missed half the season. Last year, first baseman Ryan Howard was supposedly over his leg injury and suffered a “setback.” He, too, missed half the season.
We don’t know yet if Hamels will miss half the season, but we do know he will probably miss the month of April and that’s never good news for a team that needs to get back into the habit of winning. The thing about setbacks is that if you have one, there’s no guarantee there will not be more on the way.
Hamels said he has a dead arm, a tired arm, and since he hasn’t been doing more than long-tossing for the first month of spring training, that’s a red flag. His first outing that even approached action was a bullpen session where he threw 35 pitches but said his arm was tired after that.
Without Hamels, A.J. Burnett slots into the No. 2 spot in the rotation behind dependable ace Cliff Lee, and the final spots will be among Kyle Kendrick, Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez and Roberto Hernandez to slot it out.
Hamels’ setback is a cause for concern. In recent years, Roy Halladay, Howard, Utley and Brad Lidge have all declared they were were healthy in spring training but then encountered health problems during the regular season.
Other possibilities include spring training invitees Sean O’Sullivan, Jeff Manship or David Buchanan. Of those, both O’Sullivan and Buchanan have had recent solid outings. Gonzalez does not appear ready, so the Phillies have significant starting depth problems.