ATLANTA -- While hoping not to end the season on the disabled list, Cole Hamels acknowledged Tuesday that his return will depend on his team's place in the standings as well as his ailing left elbow. If the Phillies have fallen too far out of playoff contention, "I don't think it would serve a purpose (to return)," Hamels said. "It would be too much of a risk, unless we're going for something. The goal is to finish the season healthy, whether it's two or three starts, but that all depends on our chances for the playoffs." Hamels also took the opportunity during a 15-minute talk to suggest a preventative way for him to have avoided this predicament in the first place. Hamels believes that his elbow woes have stemmed from his ongoing back problems, for which he regularly visits a chiropractor.
Here's the rub: Hamels said he usually visits a chiropractor twice a week when the Phillies are home, and has located a few others that he trusts while the team is on the road, such as Atlanta, Cincinnati and Chicago. But appointments are sometimes difficult to come by, and Hamels feels such lapses, caused by a majority of road games in July and August, have led to his elbow injury. Sometimes it's tough to get [appointments] when we're traveling," he said. "When I'm at Spring Training (and at home), I go twice a week and I get a massage before I get adjusted." With such regular maintenance, would Hamels have been on the disabled list if the team had a chiropractor on staff? "I don't think so," he said. "I really don't. In July and August, we were traveling a lot and it was very hard for me to [see one]. That's why it would be a big help if the team would get a chiropractor. That's up to them." Hamels suffered a setback in an Aug. 31 bullpen session, which was supposed to be his final tune-up for a start on Sept. 2. That plan was shelved when Hamels' left elbow flared, adding to his frustration of missing key games in a playoff race. He said he'll try to throw again on Friday. If all goes well, he hoped to return in about 10 days, or around Sept. 17, which could put him on schedule for the final two weeks of the season. That's a big if. "I think there's a chance that we might not see him," manager Charlie Manuel said. "It depends on how he feels." Hamels just wants to feel as great as he does when not throwing a baseball. The pain of Aug. 31 pushed him back a week, assuming the anti-inflammatory medication take hold. "We just keep bumping it back until I feel good," he said. "Friday is when they give me a final test to see if I can go to that initial goal of throwing again." Hamels also hopes his employers hear his request for next season. A workout fiend in light of his back problems, Hamels feels that chiropractic care would help in all areas. "A lot of it is keeping your elbow in place," Hamels said. "When you're using it, it can slowly slip and you develop some fluid and inflammation. When you're keeping it in place [through exercises], then when it's using that wear and tear it's actually [occurring] in the right area." "Our trainers said I was definitely really tight and that's what happens over the year and months and months of throwing, you build up lactic acid in your muscles and you get sore and stiff. You can't just go out and start throwing like you do at the beginning of the season. That's when you can stretch them out because there's not as much wear and tear. It would be nice if our team could step up, because I think that's the new way of trying to keep you in shape." Hamels was very clear in his belief, and reiterated this belief several times. He understands that the medical community is often against chiropractors, and some players have to see them without their employers knowing. This isn't true in Hamels' case, as the Phillies are fine with his frequent visits. "Chiropractic medicine is something obviously people use to their benefit," assistant general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said. "We don't provide it and it isn't commonly provided throughout the industry. Maybe two or three teams do." Though he doesn't have a medical degree, Amaro said he doesn't believe Hamels' back issues have caused his elbow pain. "I would be surprised if the tendon problem he is having in his elbow is either best served or reduced with the use of chiropractic medicine," he said. That said, Amaro said the team discussed the issue in the past and would be willing to evaluate it further. Can't see Laforest through the trees: The Phillies claimed Pete Laforest off waivers from San Diego, adding a fourth catcher and left-handed pinch-hitter off the bench. Laforest, 29, appeared in 10 games for the Padres and batted .360 (9-for-25) with one homer and three RBIs. He was designated for assignment on Aug. 31. He also played parts of the 2003 and 2005 seasons with Tampa Bay. Laforest will be used off the bench in a manner similar to Russell Branyan, who was designated for assignment on Aug. 27 and later dealt to St. Louis. He's expected to join the Phillies on Wednesday. Madson's regular season finished: To make room for Laforest on the 40-man roster, the Phillies transferred Madson to the 60-day disabled list, ending the pitcher's regular season. Should the Phillies make the playoffs, Madson could be eligible to pitch if healthy. Madson made his final appearance on July 29 against the Pirates, and was placed on the disabled list that day. He suffered the same right shoulder strain that sidelined closer Brett Myers for two months. The durable right-hander was badly missed in a bullpen that too often struggles through the middle innings of a game. Twenty of his 38 appearances were more than an inning. "He was pitching real good when he got hurt," Manuel said. "He was the guy we were counting on to throw in the seventh and eighth [innings], and we haven't been able to fill it since he's been gone." Philling in: Right-hander Scott Mathieson, who had been recovering from September 2006 Tommy John ligament replacement surgery on his right elbow, has been shut down for the season when he was diagnosed with an inflammation of the ulner nerve. He will begin a throwing program in instructional league, and likely won't participate in the Arizona Fall League. Coming up: Kyle Kendrick will make the start in the series finale against the Braves on Wednesday at 1:05 p.m. ET. Atlanta will counter with ace right-hander Tim Hudson.
Ken Mandel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.