Back in the E.R.
Any thoughts phans and phils alike might have had of seeing southpaw hurler Cole Hamels make the big league club were put to rest weeks ago when it was announced that the 22-year-old top prospect was basically slkated to begin the 2006 where the 2005 season left off -- in Reading PA, pitching for the double-AA minor league affiliate. Unfortunately, it looks as thought the '06 will also begin where it left off healthwise for Hamels. According to Jim Salisbury in today's Inquirer, Cole Hamels had an MRI on Wednesday after experiencing more soreness and inflammation in the area in his lower back.
How many different ways are there for one to say ouch?
While the Phillies will head to spring training in a couple weeks (!) with several question marks about them in the area of starting pitching, the second coming of Steve Carlton languishes in the mid-minors, a victim of injuries both seemingly untreatable and unbelievable (Breaking an arm against a car in a a football game? Who over the age of 12 has that happen to them?).
All the rhetoric in the world from Pat Gillick about this being a just a bump in the road (what the hell street is this and is it even drivable anymore?) does not change the fact that, if not for an injury-riddled last couple years, there would be a lefthander -- a pretty good one -- staring down hitters at CBP this summer. While its not completely 100% lock-and-load out of the question that it could still happen, one shoudl not ignore that Hamels has...
(a) Not pitched competitively since mid-July '05
(b) Not been throwing off a mound in the offseason, only doing soft-toss on flat ground
(c) Seen a number of back specialists, who by allk accounts, have not been able to agree on the cause of Hamels' problems
(d) Thrown exactly 4 games at AA ball.
(e) Is young, slight of build, and a pretty hard thrower (mid-90s). A trifecta for back problems.
(f) Is directkly responsible, by way of his injury merry-go-round, for the signing of Ryan Franklin.
While the last point may not be fair, it does demonstrate how important the Jim Thome trade will be over the next two years, as the acquisition of Gio Gonzalez and Daniel Haigwood could prove to be the antidote to Hamels' troubled run at the majors. The stories will start soon enough if both lefties pitch well this season, but for now, Hamels is taking most of the attention and expectations.