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Cole Hamels' potential injury issue raises Philadelphia Phillies' concerns

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Cole Hamels downplayed newly-revealed information that left shoulder issues will delay the start of his Philadelphia Phillies' season for long. A mid- to late-April premiere projection was offered in answer to revealed shoulder tendinitis news. This now-veteran left-hander's presence on the staff and influence on the team can't be underplayed.

Meanwhile, free agent swing-man Chad Gaudin's failed physical exam triggered his release within hours after spring training report day had ended.

General manager Ruben Amaro, Jr., whose flair for the dramatic is well established, was directly involved with three interesting roster-related reports during the last two days. The apparent acquisition of free agent starting pitcher A.J. Burnett happened yesterday. Whether that one-year, $16 million deal was directly tied to concerns about Hamels' shoulder tendinitis is unknown.

With whatever the real story is, it's fair to assume that the addition of Burnett will likely push at least one of the fifth starter candidates (Miguel Gonzalez, Roberto Hernandez and Jonathan Pettibone) to Rod Nichols' bullpen. So, Gaudin's failed physical exam is generally digestible.

Ryne Sandberg should be able to push his 2014 Phillies' team to the .500 line as long as Hamels, Lee and Burnett are able to make approximately 30 starts each this season. Moving past that mediocre mark and into playoff contention will only be possible if Philadelphia's mature starting lineup produces consistently and collectively remains off the disabled list.

This key offensive factor, which also must include productive bench efforts, and a revived bullpen might create another 'Red October'. However, each speculative point in this piece should not be taken as a firm projection. It's only mid-February and this humble baseball analyst isn't ready to commit to a squad that needs to prove itself in so many different ways.

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