LOS ANGELES — Cole Hamels stood Wednesday night a few feet from the visiting manager's office at Dodger Stadium, and the lefthander pondered his boss' choice. Hamels threw 86 pitches in his six-inning debut start. Ryne Sandberg lifted him for a porous bullpen that permitted three more runs in a 5-2 loss.
"I knew I could go up to 100, 105" pitches, Hamels said. "But that's their decision and I have to abide by it."
A day later, Sandberg was happy to hear the criticism.
"That's the right answer," Sandberg said Thursday. "He gave the right answer. We have five guys in the rotation who have that same mentality. I wouldn't have expected anything else from him."
The manager reiterated his reasons for removing Hamels. He believed it was best not to add stress on the lefthander's first night back from biceps tendinitis. The team's scouting reports pegged Hamels' fastball between 89-90 m.p.h. while at single-A Clearwater. He sat at 92 m.p.h. on Wednesday and popped some 93-m.p.h. fastballs.
"There was some question as to what we would get," Sandberg admitted.
Adding 12 to 15 more high-stress pitches for another inning in which the Phillies trailed was not a decent trade in Sandberg's mind. That rationalization, he said, was enough to stop Hamels at six innings.
"What's that going to feel like tomorrow?" Sandberg said. "That was kind of the thought with a full season ahead of us."
It felt fine Thursday, Sandberg said. He polled Hamels, who reported no issues. Hamels will have an extra day of rest before next start Tuesday at Citizens Bank Park against New York.
Hamels' fastball averaged 91.4 m.p.h., according to PITCHf/x data, on Wednesday. His fastball velocity in 2013 was 91.3 m.p.h. Dodgers hitters swung and missed at 13 of Hamels' 86 pitches. He resembled the man who signed a $144 million contract in July 2012.
"I had plenty in the tank," Hamels said. "But I don't make the decisions. I just have to go out there and pitch."
Have a question? Send it to Matt Gelb's Mailbag.