LOS ANGELES - Cole Hamels stood Wednesday night a few feet from the visiting manager's office at Dodger Stadium, and the lefthander pondered his boss' choice.
Hamels threw 86 pitches in his six-inning debut start. Ryne Sandberg lifted him for a porous bullpen that permitted three more runs in a 5-2 Phillies loss.
"I knew I could go up to 100, 105" pitches, Hamels said. "But that's their decision, and I have to abide by it."
A day later, Sandberg was happy to hear the criticism.
"That's the right answer," the manager said Thursday. "He gave the right answer. We have five guys in the rotation who have that same mentality. I wouldn't have expected anything else from him."
Sandberg reiterated his reasons for removing Hamels. He believed it was best not to add stress on the lefthander's first night back from biceps tendinitis, although Sandberg said before the game there were no restrictions. The team's scouting reports pegged Hamels' fastball at 89-90 m.p.h. while he was at single-A Clearwater. He popped some 93-m.p.h. fastballs Wednesday.
"There was some question as to what we would get," Sandberg admitted.
Adding 12 to 15 more high-stress pitches for another inning on a night when the Phillies trailed was not a decent trade in Sandberg's mind. That rationalization, he said, was enough to stop Hamels at six innings.
"What's that going to feel like tomorrow?" Sandberg said. "That was kind of the thought with a full season ahead of us."
It felt fine Thursday, Sandberg said. He talked to Hamels, who reported no issues. The pitcher will have an extra day of rest before his next start Tuesday at Citizens Bank Park against the New York Mets.
Hamels' fastball averaged 91.4 m.p.h. Wednesday, according to PITCHf/x data. His fastball velocity in 2013 was 91.3 m.p.h. Dodgers hitters swung at and missed 13 of Hamels' 86 pitches. He resembled the man who signed a $144 million contract in July 2012.
"I had plenty in the tank," Hamels said. "But I don't make the decisions. I just have to go out there and pitch."
Cody Asche pinch-hit in the eighth inning Wednesday and fouled out to third. He played just two outs in the field before being double-switched out of the game.
But the 23-year-old third baseman returned to Sandberg's starting lineup Thursday for the first time in four games. He batted eighth.
Sandberg will spread the playing time at third among Asche, Freddy Galvis, and Jayson Nix. He used Galvis in recent days because of his defense. What must improve with Asche's glove?
"He's just working on a lot of things," Sandberg said. "Whether it's more reps or whatever it might be, I know he's been concentrating on it in the pregames. It's just getting jumps on balls and making the routine plays."
Sandberg rested shortstop Jimmy Rollins for the first time since April 4. Galvis started for him. . . . Nix has just 12 home runs since the 2010 season, but his last five have come against Zack Greinke, Mark Buehrle, Yu Darvish, Justin Verlander, and Jon Lester. His eighth-inning solo shot Wednesday ended Greinke's night at 108 pitches. It was Nix's first extra-base hit in 29 plate appearances.