Cole Hamels' latest setback may not sound like much at first. After all, the lefty only threw 33 pitches in his first bullpen session of spring training over the weekend.
But that workout was so taxing that Hamels had to shut it down. For a team that needs to get off to a quick start to the 2014 season, losing a pitcher like Hamels for any length of time could be devastating.
"I'm very troubled by it," CSNPhilly.com Phillies Insider Jim Salisbury said on "SportsNite" during a telephone interview on Thursday. "We're talking about a finely conditioned, 30-year-old major league pitcher who has averaged 215 innings over the last six years and then all of a sudden he has trouble he has trouble cranking it up in November for his workouts. He shuts it down, reports to camp feeling better and then has trouble cranking it up again after a bullpen session over the weekend."
The big picture is more troubling, says Salisbury. Chances are the Phillies will not have their ace for the first month of the season.
"You have to look at it this way -- we're probably not going to see Cole Hamels until at least May 1 and that's if all goes well coming back from this latest setback," Salisbury said. "And this team desperately needs to get off to a good start or they could be out of it in July and looking to blow it up by trading a guy like Cliff Lee. This Cole Hamels thing impacts them in a big way."
So who takes Hamels' spot in the rotation? Though the Phillies likely won't need a fifth starter until the second week of the season, second-year righty Jonathan Pettibone is nursing an injury and Cuban defector Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez might not be ready.
That leaves roster fillers like David Buchanan, Sean O'Sullivan and Jeff Manship fighting for a spot on the 25-man roster.
"David Buchanan, a guy who wasn't even protected on the 40-man roster and sailed through the Rule 5 draft as a possible fifth starter when they need one 14 days into the season," Salisbury said.
Hamels' setback could be much more than just a little bump in the road. It could knock out the Phillies before they even get started.