Opinion

Opinion: Remember This Word … 'Precaution'

A few weeks ago the Mets thought about sending Johan Santana to New York for an elbow examination. Because of a snowstorm, the Mets’ doctors came to him, and they found nothing was wrong with Santana’s elbow. He returned to pitching and is now set for his first start in 2009.

Fast forward a week or so, and Cole Hamels is now under the same light.

This is nothing new. Pitchers are examined all the time because of “soreness” or “tightness” or “something just doesn’t feel right.” Hamels hasn’t quite pitched his regular repertoire, and this revelation justifies that detail. There’s something wrong. There’s a kink in the armor. But it’s certainly nothing new.

And it’s probably nothing about which to be frightened. What’s the worst-case scenario? That doctors find something much worse and recommend reconstructive elbow surgery (Tommy John). But that scenario seems unlikely. What’s the best scenario? That the doctors see nothing that would justify an MRI, Hamels returns to Florida and tracks himself for opening night.

What’s the likely scenario? Probably a precautionary MRI. Then a precautionary rest. Then precautionary sessions. A precautionary push back to the start of his season. Precaution, precaution, precaution.

It’s March 16 and no way would the Phillies want to exhaust their ace already. Last season was trying for Hamels, as he threw more than 270 innings between the regular season and postseason. Add spring numbers and he threw for more than 300 innings. Now, factor that into a left-handed youngster with injury history whose numbers rapidly increased by season, and there is certainly reason to take every “soreness,” every “tightness” and every “something just doesn’t feel right” with precaution. To wit, this is the reason there won’t be a Tommy John surgery.

Hamels should be fine, General Manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said. Most in the front office agree, and think sending Hamels to Philadelphia is just to keep him entrenched in reality. And if Hamels has to sit for a week or a few, the Phils have a sound rotation for a while — JA Happ and Chan Ho Park are pitching the best baseball for the Phils this spring; giving them both rotation spots to start wouldn’t be such a bad thing. And letting Brett Myers take the reins as ace for a few weeks also would help his psyche.

In all, the Phillies are prepared for these things.

That’s why they make precautionary measures. Like this one.

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