The combination of a Sunday rain out and a scheduled day off on Monday made for a quiet couple of days around the Phillies.
The absence of action and the enormous lead in the NL East worked together to make it seem like the middle of January instead of the middle of August, a respite that came to a crashing end with a report from Leslie Gudel of CSNPhilly.com on Monday night. While the rest of us were struggling to come up with Phillies-related things to talk about, Cole Hamels was reportedly undergoing an MRI on his left shoulder.
There's been no confirmation of the procedure, although Hamels did complain of stiffness in the shoulder during Saturday's loss to the Nationals. At the time, Hamels chalked it up to a "dead arm" phase that happens over the course of a season but it seems caution won out over optimistic thinking about the nature of the problem.
Obviously the lack of confirmation makes it impossible to know the findings of the MRI, assuming, of course, there actually was an MRI. The combo of the rain out and the off day already pushed Hamels' next start back from Thursday to Friday. As of right now, the Phillies list Roy Oswalt as their starter for Friday night so it would seem that the worry is enough to be as conservative as possible with Hamels for the time being.
If Hamels simply is experiencing fatigue, there's nothing much to worry about going forward. The beauty of having a huge lead is that you can rest players without risking much in the short term, especially when their presence is a crucial part of your hopes for success over the long term.
Pitching coach Rich Dubee has already shared his openness to a six-man rotation over the rest of the season. That arrangement makes sense generally as a way to rest the rotation before October, but it makes even more sense now that Hamels has gone public with his belief that his left arm is fatigued.
A more serious finding from doctors would give the Phillies and their fans their first real license to furrow their brows this season. The team wouldn't be finished if Vance Worley made starts in the postseason, but the team would be weaker without Hamels taking a regular turn in the rotation. Oswalt has been ailing and Worley's never been on the big stage, making for a huge difference from the 2008 World Series hero in a big spot.
For now, it's something worth your concern, if not anything approaching worry. The Phillies can handle Hamels with kid gloves and they could even put him on the DL for a spell without losing anything from the effort to win a World Series this fall.
Anything more than that would represent the first kink in the armor, which makes it best to live with the belief that no news is good news about Hamels' shoulder.