LAKELAND, Fla. — The Phillies do not believe there is a larger issue in Cole Hamels' shoulder that caused his fatigue. They will not order an MRI for his $144 million arm. But they must prepare for an undetermined amount of time without their homegrown ace.
"The only thing that is a concern for me is we have to push him back a little bit," Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said. "The fact that he's throwing and not having any pain, this is part of the rehab. This is part of what happens. Sometimes it doesn't go in a straight line."
Amaro stressed patience Thursday as Hamels revealed a setback that will delay his throwing program by at least a week. He could miss all of April, at least, and that is dependent on him returning to a mound sometime next week.
There is no timetable for Hamels' recovery, Amaro said. The team, he said, has zero reason to believe a structural issue has plagued Hamels. A bout with biceps tendinitis terminated Hamels' throwing program in December, but Amaro said a two-week winter illness sapped the lefthander of necessary energy. Hamels lost "10 to 15 pounds," Amaro said.
"We're just waiting for his body to bounce back," Amaro said.
The Phillies are likely to use a four-man rotation through the first 12 games of the season. They need a fifth starter on April 14. The candidates, manager Ryne Sandberg said, are Jeff Manship, Sean O'Sullivan and David Buchanan.
Manship, 29, has a 6.42 ERA in 52 career games. O'Sullivan, 26, has a 5.89 ERA in 50 career games. Buchanan, 24, was the last internal player invited to camp. He posted a 4.40 ERA last season between double-A Reading and triple-A Lehigh Valley.
Hamels' absence could handicap a team that requires a quick start.
"It affects us," Amaro 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."
Sandberg opted for a long-range view.
"I want Cole for the long haul," he 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. That's what I want from Cole."
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