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Opinion: Lower Your Expectations For Hamels

What should we expect from Cole Hamels today? Instead of trying to answer that, let’s voice what we want to expect from the ace.

Hamels is making his first start of the 2009 season, after stalling like an old engine at the starting gates during spring training. He had some elbow issues. The Phillies sidelined him. He started back up. The Rays clocked him. Of course, Hamels probably wasn’t trying to dominate Tampa Bay in the vein of games one and five of the World Series, so take that for it’s worth. But that was his last outing, and now he’s getting the ball and taking the hill in Denver, sanctuary of the big fly.

This will mark yet another test for a team that supposedly hadn’t had much practice and preparation before the season. It took a few games for the Phillies offense to reach regular season mode, while the starting pitching still hasn’t quite worked out the kinks. For Hamels, this is more than straight preparation. This is returning from elbow “tightness,” hopefully steering away from elbow “injury.” Which, of course, would mean “really bad things.”

In that vein, it’s essential that Hamels leaves this start feeling good. But, since the Phillies are now playing notable baseball, it’s essential he does enough to allow a win. I’m hoping for six innings, two runs, a couple strikeouts. If he allows four or five runs, is there cause for alarm? Not quite – just as long as the elbow feels fine.

We expect Hamels to blow away everyone this season, for his final rush of starts in 2008 were those of legend. But we have to temper ourselves, at least for the first few outings. If we know Hamels like we know him, he’ll be in good shape and give the Phillies the chance to win today. But if things don’t work that way, don’t scream your head off – you probably should’ve come in with lower expectations.

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