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WASHINGTON -- The Cole Hamels watch ended quickly Wednesday, when Phillies manager Charlie Manuel announced that his ace will pitch Sunday night against Mets ace Johan Santana at Shea Stadium.
The decision ended what had been an internal debate centering around whether to use Thursday's off-day to give Hamels a fifth day of rest between starts, rather than pitch him on four days, or "regular" rest.
The important thing is that it allows the Phillies and Mets to match aces in the final regular-season contest between the National League East rivals.
"I like the fact we can put Cole on the Mets," Manuel said. "He's getting proper rest and is on his regular turn. He can handle it. We've been watching him all year and he's gone farther than he's ever gone. Hopefully, he can stay healthy and complete the season."
With 23 games left in the season, the Phillies entered Wednesday's game against the Nationals trailing the Mets by 2 1/2. Though this weekend's series won't make or break the season, it could determine plenty.
Hamels will be the guy with the ball in the rivals' final regular-season meeting.
"I understand the situation," Hamels said. "That's the way it was in high school, when you have two pitchers and one is your main guy, which is what I was, the main guy when it's the playoffs, the championship, the big division rivalry. That's what I want to be, and that's what I've been able to learn. Finally, I get that time to step up to the plate. I definitely know I'm ready for it."
Assuming Hamels also starts Sept. 12 against Milwaukee, he will make a season-high four consecutive starts on four days' rest. He made three straight from July 3-13, going 1-1 with a 1.99 ERA. He has started on normal rest 16 times this season and has posted a 2.47 ERA in those outings. In 12 starts with five or more days' rest, he has a 3.95 ERA.
Hamels leads the NL in innings with 203. After years of dealing with injuries, the lefty seems to have figured out a way to stay off the disabled list.
"You have to give this kid a lot of credit," pitching coach Rich Dubee said. "You look at our staff, our training staff, our fitness guy, and look at Cole and see what they've done. This kid has prepared himself well and preserved himself well. He's physically fit to do this [and] I know he's competitive enough."
The fallout from the choice is that Kyle Kendrick will be skipped in the rotation and possibly used in relief for the rest of the season. The righty has posted a 9.14 ERA in his past five outings, and hasn't lasted more than 5 2/3 innings in any of those starts.
He'll be available in relief Sunday.
"I want to pitch, you know?" Kendrick said. "I understand it, obviously. I haven't thrown the ball well. My arm feels good, my body feels good, I'm just not getting ahead in counts. I'm getting behind, leaving the ball up, and not being consistent.
"I can still finish strong, though. I just want to help this team win games, and I feel like I can do that. I'm upset at my pitching. I'll just be ready to go when they give me the ball again. I know I can help us win games."