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Jim Salisbury | Hamels says Phillies need chiropractor

He wasn't as forceful as Curt Schilling and Scott Rolen were when they put management's feet to the fire on various matters years ago, but Cole Hamels sure made his point yesterday.

He wasn't as forceful as Curt Schilling and Scott Rolen were when they put management's feet to the fire on various matters years ago, but Cole Hamels sure made his point yesterday.

Instead of nursing a strained elbow on the disabled list, the 23-year-old lefthander believes he'd be helping his pitching-starved team in this difficult dash for the playoffs if only the Phillies had a full-time chiropractor to help him keep his lanky, 6-foot-4 body aligned properly.

"I don't think so," Hamels responded when asked if he thought he would be on the DL if the Phillies had the chiropractor he says he has sought all year. "I really don't."

Hamels' comments came amid rumblings that the Phillies are a lot more concerned about their golden boy's elbow than they have let on publicly.

Manager Charlie Manuel said yesterday, "I think there's a chance we might not see him. It depends on how he feels."

Hamels will do some throwing Friday. If his elbow feels good, he will begin preparing for a start. And that, he said, would take 10 days.

That puts us at Sept. 17, which would be a month and a day after Hamels' last start.

So, Hamels could spend a month on the DL then come back to the heat of a pennant race, provided the Phils are still in it. That's a lot of pressure, both mental and physical. Even if the Phils are out of the race and Hamels has the luxury of easing back into the rotation, starting your ace of the present and future in a big-league game after missing a month with a sore elbow might not be the wisest idea.

This drama is starting to remind us of 1998, when Kerry Wood was a 21-year-old phenom with the Chicago Cubs. He developed a sore elbow late in that season. The Cubs shut him down for September, then squeezed a start out of him in the playoffs. The next spring, he needed reconstructive surgery.

Pitching in the playoffs might not have been the reason Wood blew out his elbow. The damage might have been done by then and he might have needed surgery anyway.

Hamels might, as the Phillies say, simply have a strained tendon, the result of his first full season in the majors. We hope it's no worse.

But either way, it might be time to shut him down and try to win the wild card without him. If he comes back Sept. 17, he would make three starts. The Phils have made do and shown a lot of character hanging in the race without him. For the sake of their future and Hamels', they can continue to do that.

Now back to this chiropractor stuff.

Hamels is not a calculating person, but once he got to talking yesterday about his need to see one more regularly, he certainly didn't regret it.

The squeaky elbow gets the chiropractor? We'd bet Hamels will have regular access to one next season.

Hamels sees a chiropractor (on his own) as part of his treatment for a lower-back condition, but travel has limited his ability to see one regularly this summer. He said he has spoken to team medical personnel about having one assigned to the club - he said a number of his teammates would welcome one, as well - but the Phils have balked for philosophical reasons. The medical establishment has long viewed chiropractors with a jaundiced eye, and baseball teams have traditionally sided with the medical establishment. That's why few teams retain regular chiropractors.

"In July and August, we were traveling a lot and it was very hard for me to get into Philly," Hamels said. "That's why it would be a big help if the team would get a chiropractor. It's just up to the team to make the effort."

Hamels said team trainers told him he was tight before straining his elbow. A chiropractor, he said, would keep his body loose and aligned. That, he said, would ease stress on his arm.

"A lot of it is keeping your elbow in place," he said. "When you're using it and using it, it can slowly slip and you develop some fluid and inflammation in there. When you're keeping it in place, wear and tear is actually [happening] in the right area."

Phillies athletic trainer Scott Sheridan declined comment and assistant general manager Ruben Amaro admitted to being a little out of his league on the topic.

"I'm not a doctor," he said, "but I'd be surprised if the tendon problem he is having in his elbow is either best served or reduced by the use of chiropractic medicine."

Could Hamels' injury have been avoided if the team had a chiropractor at its disposal?

"With my background, that's not something I could have an opinion on," Amaro said.

Mitch Harding, a Center City chiropractor, said yesterday that, yes, the use of chiropractic medicine could be a preventive measure for shoulder or elbow injuries.

With the price of pitching these days, retaining a chiropractor would seem to make sense. The ball is in the Phillies' court now. Hamels put it there.

"We've discussed it," said Amaro, adding that he knows of maybe two teams that retain chiropractors. "At some point, we'll evaluate it."

In the meantime, the playoff race goes on without Cole Hamels. No one is sure if he'll pitch again this season. And at this point, it might not be worth the risk.