The Philadelphia Phillies need plenty of dominoes to fall right this season in order for a playoff push to be made. But, one of their strongest game pieces appears to be broken. Without a fully healthy Cole Hamels available to start the season, it's hard to develop realistic hopes for the 2014 season.
Now, St. Patrick's Day hasn't even arrived, which means that all is hardly lost. But, Ryne Sandberg already sees that his starting rotation is only 2-3 reliable men deep without 'Hollywood' on the hill.
If Cliff Lee and A.J. Burnett pitch through the entire season they could combine to start approximately 65 games. Tack on another hopeful 30 starts from Kyle Kendrick, who also needs to stay off the disabled list, and it's fair to give the Phillies a fighting chance to win 70-80 games. That's 2013 territory because without Hamels this team is at least 10 wins short of 90, which is the bare minimum any team might need to potentially earn the second National League Wild Card spot.
Hamels' fatigued left arm seems to be connected to his inability to complete an off-season pitching regimen. That situation existed because of the tendinitis he experienced after last season ended.
This news could turn a starting rotation, which was the team's top strength, into another questionable area of the roster. Because every other part of general manager Ruben Amaro's team is similarly shaky, a mid-season sell-off that sends Lee and Burnett elsewhere isn't cynical speculation.
Yes, it's not time to panic. However, everyone who knows this great game and the specifics of this baseball team is right to be concerned.