Hamels' left elbow to be examined
Phillies ace has been experiencing discomfort, tightness
CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Cole Hamels said he feels no pain in his left elbow.
But he feels something.
Whatever it is, it is concerning enough that Hamels will fly to Philadelphia on Monday evening to be examined Tuesday morning by Dr. Michael Ciccotti, the team physician. Hamels said he is not worried about the discomfort in his pitching elbow and is optimistic he will make his Opening Day start April 5 against the Braves at Citizens Bank Park.
But Hamels is the Phillies' ace, and this is his elbow, so there is reason for concern.
"We don't feel that it's serious, but again, I don't have a crystal ball," Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said. "I can't look inside his elbow. We just want to be cautious, and we thought it was important that he sees our doctor in Philly."
Hamels signed a three-year, $20.5 million contract extension in January. He had MRIs performed on his shoulder and elbow before the club agreed to the deal. The Phils said they felt comfortable with the health of Hamels' arm.
"I'm sure you will make a lot more out of this than there really is, but he's an important piece for us," Amaro said. "We're just trying to be as cautious as possible with our No. 1 starter."
Hamels is being cautious, too. He threw 262 1/3 innings last season, including the postseason -- more innings than he threw in his entire Minor League career. He also has had elbow problems in the past. The 25-year-old southpaw missed the first month of the 2004 season in Class A Clearwater because of tendinitis in his left elbow. He made four starts that year, but missed the rest of the season with soreness in the elbow.
The Phillies put Hamels on the disabled list Aug. 22-Sept. 18, 2007, with a mild left elbow strain.
Hamels said there is no comparison from what he felt in 2007 to what he feels today.
"That was pain," Hamels said. "That was I-couldn't-even-do-anything [pain]. That was the type of pain that when I threw a ball, I didn't know how it got to home plate. I threw the ball pretty well [Sunday in a Minor League game at the Carpenter Complex]. That's the thing that is unusual. Normally, I'll feel it when I play catch every once in a while, but I don't feel it at all. I feel really strong."
So what is he feeling and when?
Hamels said he feels fine when he pitches. He said he feels fine when he long tosses in between starts, which he did Monday morning. He said he feels no pain afterward.
Hamels said he simply feels some tightness in between innings and afterward.
|"We don't feel that it's serious, but again, I don't have a crystal ball. I can't look inside his elbow. We just want to be cautious, and we thought it was important that he sees our doctor in Philly."|
|-- Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr.|
"Truly, I think it might have been throwing too hard too soon, or trying to throw too hard too soon before your body can really tolerate it," Hamels said. "Just with my mechanics, I try to keep them the best I possibly can, but for some odd reason, I come to Spring Training and my shoulder is always really tight, so I have to do a little bit more with my elbow to get over that, and eventually my shoulder kind of is used to the throwing process and it can take all the workload.
"The elbow doesn't have to do much. I think the elbow was stressed with the workload of my shoulder. That's why I'm still able to throw, because I'm doing all the work with my shoulder again, but it's still that little nagging inflammation that is really causing all the problems."
Hamels said he has the tightness problem every spring, but it typically dissipates after a week or two.
"We were seeing if it finally went away and it wasn't, so I guess that's when the flashing lights went off," Hamels said. "We're doing all the same things we've done to treat it and make it go away, but it's not going away."
Hamels is taking anti-inflammatory medication, but thinks a cortisone shot might be just the thing he needs to get rid of it.
"From talking to people, because it's so minimal, I think it probably would [help]," Hamels said. "I think it would flush out the inflammation I have in there that I haven't been able to get out. That might help jump-start that recovery process in a better way."
Hamels had been scheduled to throw a bullpen session Tuesday, which will not happen. If Philadelphia shuts him down for a period of time, it could jeopardize him pitching Opening Day, which is 20 days away.
"Twenty days is a long time," Hamels said. "My body and shoulder is pretty much ready. It's just trying to get that mild discomfort out."
But the club's ace added that he will not risk his season to make that start, either.
"I think I am fine," Hamels said. "I don't think I have anything serious."
Hamels and the Phillies will find out exactly how serious it is or isn't Tuesday.
Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.