Elbow strain sidelines Hamels for at least one start

PHILADELPHIA -- Phillies left-handed ace Cole Hamels has a
strained elbow and likely will miss at least two starts, offsetting
the good news that All-Star second baseman Chase Utley will soon
return from the disabled list.

Hamels (14-5, 3.50 ERA) will have an MRI exam and skip his
scheduled start Wednesday against Los Angeles after complaining of
persistent soreness in his left elbow, team doctor Michael Ciccotti
said Tuesday night.

The 23-year-old Hamels, who has pitched 167 1/3 innings this
season, said he expected to miss at least two starts and go on the
disabled list.

He said he started feeling discomfort two days before his last
start on Thursday at Washington. Hamels felt "unusual" soreness
after his last outing, then again in his most recent bullpen
session, and told the Phillies before Tuesday's game against the

"To have something pop up like this, I guess that's what
happens," Hamels said. "I know it's not serious. Two starts is a
lot better than the rest of the year."

J.D. Durbin (5-2, 5.36) will start against the Dodgers. Manager
Charlie Manuel said he was undecided about who will start Thursday.

Hamels has been about the only bright spot for a Phillies
rotation decimated by injury and ineffectiveness. Freddy Garcia,
Adam Eaton and Jon Lieber are all on the disabled list, forcing the
Phillies to use a patchwork rotation anchored by Hamels and veteran
lefty Jamie Moyer.

Hamels was sidelined in the minor leagues for the first month of
the 2004 season with left elbow tendinitis. He made only four
starts before he was shut down with elbow soreness.

"I think he's going to be OK, really," Manuel said. "Stuff
like this is kind of natural."

Shortstop Jimmy Rollins, one of the few Phillies this year not
to spend time on the disabled list, had his left knee wrapped in
ice after the game because of tendinitis. He said it wasn't

"We've had so many injuries that it doesn't seem like news
anymore," Rollins said.

The good news is the Phillies might not have to wait much longer
for Utley to rejoin the team as they make a push in the NL East.
Utley, batting .336 with 17 homers and 82 RBIs, took some practice
cuts before Tuesday's game against Los Angeles for the first time
since his right hand was struck by a pitch nearly a month ago.

"I swung pretty hard and I feel fine," Utley said. "We'll see
how it feels tomorrow. If it feels the same tomorrow, we'll try
again with more swings, harder swings."

The Phillies, who opened a 10-game homestand trailing San Diego
by only one game in the wild card race, hope Utley can return for
next week's series against the Mets. Utley said he was going "stir
crazy" watching the Phillies drop two of three at Pittsburgh.

Utley split about 50-60 swings between his regular bat and a
fungo bat, and hoped to take batting practice some time this week.
Utley wore protective padding under his batting glove.

"My hands were a little weaker than it was prior to the injury,
but it wasn't that bad," he said.

Ciccotti said Utley should be ready for a rehab assignment this
weekend, and then return against the Mets.

Utley was injured when he was hit by Washington's John Lannan in
the fifth inning of a 7-6 loss on July 26. Utley stayed in the
game, going 2-for-4 with an RBI, but had surgery the next day to
put a pin in the fourth metacarpal of his right hand. He was
replaced in the lineup by Tadahito Iguchi, who was acquired from
the Chicago White Sox shortly after Utley went down.

Utley was about to swing for the first time when he stopped
Manuel for a favor.

"Put me in the lineup!" he shouted from down the clubhouse.

"Yeah, he's in the lineup," Manuel chuckled. "He's hitting

While the Phillies still lead the National League in runs
scored, they sorely need one of their top run producers as they
chase their first playoff appearance since 1993. First baseman Ryan Howard leads the NL in RBIs (99) entering Tuesday, but was in a
3-for-24 slump.

"He's not seeing the ball good," Manuel said. "I don't plan
on giving him any rest. He's going to play through it."

In other Phillies injury news, Ciccotti said outfielder Shane Victorino (calf) could rejoin the team on Wednesday; OF Michael Bourn (ankle) might be back in two-to-three weeks; LHP Mike Zagurski (hamstring) is likely out for the season; RHP Ryan Madson
(shoulder) might return for the final week of the season; and Eaton (shoulder) will throw in a bullpen session on Wednesday.

"It's been a very freak season," Manuel said.