Manuel on Hamels:"I think he could handle it"

When last we heard of Cole Hamels, he was bothered by more back pain. Now, after progressing well over the past couple of weeks, Hamels is getting a vote of confidence from Phillies manager Charlie Manuel.

"It depends on how he'd do in spring training," said Charlie Manuel when discussing putting Cole Hamels in the starting rotation. "I think he could handle it."

If Hamels could handle a starting spot in the Phillies' rotation , that would solve some definite problems. First and foremost, it would mean that Hamels was healthy, which has been the biggest concern about him almost from the day he was drafted. Second, it would fill a spot in the rotation. Third, not only would it fill a spot, but it would fill it with a left-hander, which the Phillies won't have in their rotation until Randy Wolf returns possibly as late as August.

Hamels, who turns 22 on December 27th, pitched as high as AA last season, but made it through just three starts with the R-Phils before being shut down. In other words, he has pitched just 19 innings above High-A Clearwater and just a total of 152 minor league innings.

Manuel compared Hamels to C.C. Sabathia, who he lobbied for and got added to the Indians roster when Manuel was the Indians manager. "He (Hamels) may be the kind of kid that doesn't need a lot of time in the minors. As long as he's healthy and throwing strikes, he might be able to handle big league hitters," believes Manuel. Sabathia pitched 232 2/3 innings in the minors before coming to Cleveland in 2001, with just 90 1/3 of those innings coming at AA and no AAA experience.

Hamels has been hurt by various injuries, including a broken hand suffered in a nightclub scuffle last February. He also had back problems during the 2005 season and those same back pains resurfaced about two weeks ago interrupting his off-season regimen. Manuel said that Hamels back injury is healing well and that he should be back on schedule before long.

Manuel made his comments on Comcast Sports Net's Daily News Live.

In other comments, Manuel said that Abraham Nunez and backup catcher Sal Fasano will likely see a decent amount of playing time spelling David Bell and Mike Lieberthal respectively. Both Nunez and Fasano were small scale free agent signings this off-season. On Ryan Madson, Manuel said that he would really prefer to have Madson in the starting rotation, leaving just one spot open for competition.

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