Cole Hamels Is Basically Dead, Probably

Pitchers and catchers day! It’s the first sign in an otherwise desolate winter that sentient life exists, and occasionally throws a baseball. Players have lost some amount of weight and it might matter (it won’t)! Beat writers are tweeting grainy cell phone pictures of dudes doing stretches! Nothing can ruin this first great bump of baseball cocai-

OK, well, he’s behind schedule. No one’s concerned. They didn’t even do an MRI! And he’s already throwing, he just got started a bit late. He could do a bullpen session in 10 days!

Oh, uh, OK. So he isn’t throwing yet. Or, at least, not off of a mound. But it sounds like he’ll be getting into the swing of things any time now.

I think we can all be excused for being a bit paranoid and panicky about this, given the Phillies’ history of dressing up bad injury news in vague and contradictory talking points, while deflecting media attempts to get a handle on it. Typically, the initial PR fog around the actual extent of the injury takes a few days or weeks to clear, particularly in February, though this one seems to be dissipating by the minute. Supposedly, nobody on the medical staff is worried about this, not even enough to just have the area imaged for the sake of it. But the prognoses for pitcher shoulder problems always seem to get worse before they get better, and the Phillies in particular have an uncomfortable recent history with them.

The biceps tendon attaches the biceps to the scapula (leaving out some additional anatomical details that Wikipedia was unclear about need not concern a layperson). The proximity to and interaction with the rotator cuff and other troublesome injury spots is, to say the least, concerning. If it’s truly only inflammation, and there is no tearing or structural damage, this could be similar to his brief experience with shoulder soreness last season, which pushed back his pre-season schedule but did not cause him to miss any time.

The actual damage done by Hamels potentially missing a week or two in April (and he is adamant that he will pitch in April) depends upon your opinion of whether the 2014 Phillies have significantly improved upon the 2013 roster. Cliff Lee is now the presumptive Opening Day starter. If Miguel Gonzalez proves that he can physically grip and throw a baseball in spring training, Roberto Hernandez and Jonathan Pettibone can likely postpone their competition and round out the back of the rotation, assuming the Phillies even need a 5th starter before Hamels is ready.

The question of whether the injury at all implicates the long-term health of his shoulder area is of greater import, considering that he is owed $118.5 million through 2019. I can’t think of a compelling reason for the Phillies to be anything but extremely cautious with Hamels going forward. Pay close attention to the language being used in the coming weeks; the Phillies tend to be a bit clumsy about expectations management.

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  1. JD

    February 13, 2014 10:43 AM

    Hey it’s cool. We signed Jamie Moyer right?

  2. @shawny_mac12

    February 13, 2014 11:20 AM

    Not even coming off a World Series, really no excuse. Probably some crazy sex act with his playboy bunny wife on a giant pile of money… if that’s the case, I could probably forgive him.

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