PHILADELPHIA -- Cole Hamels' pending Sunday return creates a pitching quandary. Suddenly, the Phillies will have six starters in the rotation. Again. "Decisions need to be made," said righty starter Adam Eaton. "Like Spring Training, it's a luxury to have extra starting pitching."
In March, Phils manager Charlie Manuel shifted Jon Lieber to the bullpen and went with Brett Myers, Cole Hamels, Freddy Garcia, Jamie Moyer and Eaton, a rotation that lasted a month, when Lieber was inserted and Myers went to the bullpen. Eventually, Garcia was lost with right shoulder problems, and everyone but Moyer has missed at least two turns. Trades, callups and waiver claims have given the Phillies a rotation of Kyle Kendrick, Kyle Lohse, Moyer, J.D. Durbin, Eaton and Hamels. In the short term, the Phillies aren't ruling out the possibility of a six-man rotation, at least through next Thursday's off-day. That would mean a rotation of Eaton, Moyer and Lohse for the Braves series in Atlanta next week. "We'll look and see how these guys are holding up, see what guys we feel more comfortable with and make the adjustment," pitching coach Rich Dubee said. "There are guys this time of year who might benefit from an extra day." Hamels, the ace, is 14 innings away from his professional high of 181 1/3 frames set last season, and Kendrick will pass his high-water mark for innings in a season in his next start. And Moyer is 44 years old. The Phillies could also skip Eaton for a turn or return Durbin to the bullpen, though he seems more comfortable as a starter. As for Eaton, as he has all season, he'll assume he's starting until informed otherwise. He returned on Tuesday to limit the Mets to two runs in 5 2/3 innings. "I'll pitch when they tell me to pitch," Eaton said. ".I haven't heard either way. Obviously, Cole is set to come back this weekend and if it's Sunday, that's my day I'm scheduled to pitch. That would bump me to Monday in Atlanta. Obviously, guys are throwing the ball well right now, and I have to prepare myself for the days I don't pitch. Until they tell me otherwise, I'm a starter." No need to be alarmed: Chase Utley took Wednesday off after playing the first two games of the Mets series. There's no reason to be alarmed, Manuel said. With lefty Oliver Perez starting for the Mets and a day game on Thursday, Manuel thought Wedneday was a good time to give his recovering second baseman a rest and keep Tadahito Iguchi fresh. "[Utley's] fine," Manuel said. "I thought playing two days in a row, we'd give him a break. We thought we would do something like this when we came back. It seemed like the right spot." Manuel said Utley would play in Thursday's series finale. He is 4-for-10 since returning on Monday, with a homer and a double. Manager of the Year? Say it a few times to get used to it. Manuel, National League Manager of the Year. While he can't hit or pitch for the players, Manuel deserves much of the credit for keeping an injury-ravaged team motivated and contending. "He never pushes the panic button," Jimmy Rollins said. Manuel, of course, heaped all the credit onto his players. "They're responding," he said. "When I have meetings, it's about our team. It's not about the manager or the coach, We win because we have good players. If I ever get that, they'd have to give that award to 25 players [here], or in this case, 60. I would look at it as a team award." Quotable: "Why don't you sit down and rest a while? You may need some bat speed tonight." -- Manuel, to Aaron Rowand, whose swinging bunt single traveled 50 feet and tied the game in the eighth inning of Tuesday's 4-2, 10-inning win Rowand's response: "It doesn't matter how far it goes." Coming up: Kyle Lohse, who opposes Orlando Hernandez in Thursday's 1:05 p.m. ET series finale, is coming off his best effort with the Phillies, when he allowed one run in 6 2/3 innings against the Padres. He received a no-decision when the bullpen couldn't hold a 2-1 lead. Lohse is 1-0 with a 3.95 ERA in five starts with the Phillies, and is 0-2 with a 6.61 ERA in three career appearances against the Mets.
Ken Mandel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.