Philadelphia Phillies: Cole Hamels a cause for concern

It was reported yesterday that Cole Hamels suffered a setback in his attempt to be ready for the first month of the season.  His throwing session yesterday was cancelled due to arm fatigue, setting Hamels back even further than before after suffering from shoulder tendinitis during the offseason.  The Philadelphia Phillies will now be without their best pitcher for longer than anticipated.  It was expected that Hamels would miss Opening Day but still pitch in April.  However, it now it appears that he will miss all of April.

The addition of Burnett is even more crucial with Hamels setback.

The addition of Burnett is even more crucial with Hamels setback.

The Phillies would have been able to get away with a four-man rotation had Hamels only been scheduled to miss the first week or two of the season, but now things have changed.    The team’s pitching depth will be tested, and the signing of A.J. Burnett looks even better now that Hamels will be missing significant time.  Burnett helps to form a still formidable top of the rotation behind Cliff Lee, although how the rotation after them will rely on the team’s young arms.

While Kyle Kendrick and Roberto Hernandez will serve as the third and fourth starters, the last spot will be up for grabs.  The team will be able to have a four-man rotation until April 14th, but afterwards they will need to find a fifth starter.  Recent acquisition Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez is likely out of the running as his spring appearances have shown he is still making his way back to pitching competitively.  Johnathan Pettibone and Ethan Martin have struggled with injuries this spring, leaving the team to possibly turn towards some of their Spring Training invitees.

This means that Sean O’Sullivan, Jeff Manship, and David Buchanan now have a better chance to make the Opening Day roster.  Buchanan is the only one of the three without any Major League experience, but the others’ experience does not give them much of an advantage.  O’Sullivan has a career ERA of 5.89 in 50 games and 37 starts.  Manship meanwhile has a career ERA of 6.42 in 52 games and 10 starts.  This could leave Buchanan the advantage of potential since there is no evidence that he struggles in the majors.

As the youngest of the three at 24, Buchanan has only pitched in the Minor League so far in his career.  During his time in the Phillies’ organization Buchanan has mostly pitched at the A and AA level.  Last year he made 22 starts for the Reading Fightin Phils and 6 starts for the Lehigh Valley IronPigs.  For the Fightin Phils, Buchanan went 6-11 with a 4.82 ERA.  However, for the IronPigs, he went 4-2 with a 3.00 ERA.  His late season promotion to Lehigh Valley showed that Buchanan  has the potential to succeed at a high level.

Ultimately it all comes back to how quickly Hamels will be able to return.  The best case scenario is that he only misses the first month of the season, but it would be best not to hold him to that.  The Phillies cannot afford to have him miss more time than that.  Health is the biggest factor this season that will determine the Phillies success, and Hamels issues are already threatening the team’s chances to get off to a good start.

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