The Phillies announced on Thursday that ace pitcher Cole Hamels will not throw his scheduled batting practice session due to arm fatigue. This development is being viewed by many as a significant setback for Hamels' ailing pitching arm, and will likely cause him to miss at least the entire first month of the season.
In other words, this is terrible news for the Phillies.
Remember, in order for Philadelphia to be successful, even their own brass concedes just about everything must go right in 2014. At the top of that list is the need to stay healthy. How many times have you heard general manager Ruben Amaro, Jr or manager Ryne Sandberg attach the caveat of, "if we can just stay healthy," to any assessment of their team's chances during the upcoming season? I've heard it on at least 10 different occasions from each.
Much of that duo's consternation was regarding the Phillies' aging offense. Veterans Ryan Howard and Chase Utley have been besieged by injuries the last three years, and anyone with a brain knew they would have to stay healthy in order for Philly to be a postseason contender. When the club added long-in-the-tooth free agents Bobby Abreu and Marlon Byrd during the offseason, the concern over injury issues only increased.
So when Hamels announced shortly after pitchers and catchers reported to spring training that he was dealing with bicep tendonitis, it was like a punch to the gut for Phillies' fans. Of all things on the list to be worried about, Hamels' health wasn't even supposed to be in the top 100. He and Cliff Lee were going to be the team's rocks, their north star, or any other cliche you can think of that means dependable.
As a result, it wasn't surprising that the organization immediately started downplaying the significance of the injury. Why give a fanbase that is already sour on the prospects of the upcoming season another reason to have doubts? This isn't a new strategy for the Phillies. In the last half-decade they have had big names like Brad Lidge, Roy Halladay, Howard and Utley claim health wasn't a concern during spring training, only to see them spend extended time on the disabled list due to the same issues they were dismissing in Clearwater.
It doesn't take a genius to realize, no how matter how much the Phillies may want to say this is no big deal, it is. And considering the team's margin for error was already razor thin coming into the year, this big deal is also a major bummer.