PHILADELPHIA -- Cole Hamels waved off any notion of injury on Friday night after a 4-2 loss to the Nationals at Citizens Bank Park.
Now in his sixth Major League season, the 27-year-old left-handed starter understands what its like to reach a "dead arm" period of a long season. In 2007 for example, there was a belief that the then 23-year-old phenom was overly cautious with his most prized possession, and that caution led to a 32-day span out of the rotation in late August and into September. Hamels returned in time for the Phillies' historic run into the playoffs, and followed that a year later with a World Series MVP trophy.
Granted, only Hamels really knows what he experienced in 2007, but one thing is for sure: Hamels is a different player and person now, and much more at ease with the rigors of a long season.
"Right now [a dead arm is] what we think it is, yeah," pitching coach Rich Dubee said. "The funny thing is, he warmed up in San Francisco and he said, 'Boy, my arm is heavy.' So we just talked about angling the ball and he goes out and he pitches a gem. Then his side session in between then and now was fabulous. His arm rebounded, felt great. So it's a combination of workload, combination of east-west. Or west-east, whatever you want to call it. Just everything building up."
The Phillies are in an interesting situation, as they currently hold a 7 1/2-game lead in the National League East and look to be the favorite to return to the World Series for the first time since 2009. That said, they still have work to do and have to temper that with the fact that Roy Halladay (175 innings), Hamels, and Cliff Lee (172 innings each) occupy the top three spots in innings thrown in the National League.
"We have 44 games left and we want them as sharp as we can get them and as well rested as possible," said Phillies manager Charlie Manuel. "But at the same time, if we don't get to October, what good is rest for them? You have to get there.
"We have guys that are used to throwing 200 innings -- 220 or 200 is what they're used to. If you get over 240, that's a high territory."
Manuel has been around long enough to believe in a "dead arm" period, but he's also a veteran of enough campaigns that he also understands every pitcher gets through it in his own unique way.
"As long as I've been managing, yeah, I buy into it," Manuel said. "You can come out of it, too. Rest will not hurt you if you monitor days, but at the same time, you can work out of it, too."