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Here Comes Hamels?

The Phillies today promoted hotshot pitching prospect Cole Hamels to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre from Clearwater, where he had started the season. Rule V relief acquisition Chris Booker, previously on an injury rehab stint with the Threshers, will join Hamels in Scranton.

The Phillies today promote Hamels, their prized but fragile left-handed pitching prospect, to Class AAA Scranton-Wilkes/Barre from Class A Clearwater. Hamels, 22, was 1-1 with a 1.77 ERA and 29 strikeouts in 20.1 innings over four starts for Clearwater.

Injuires limited Hamels to only six starts in the past two seasons. Entering 2006, he was 11-3 with a 1.54 ERA and 208 strikeouts in 152 innings over 28 starts in his five-year pro career.
Booker, acquired in the Rule 5 draft in December, must be activated by May 11 or offered back to the Washington Nationals, his previous team.

We've discussed Booker, the hard-throwing minor-league journeyman who was dominant last season (91 K in 65.1 IP) in the Cincinnati chain, before. Suffice it to say that Geoff Geary probably should put in a call to his agent, and if Julio Santana hasn't yet signed a long-term lease in Philadelphia, he might want to hold off doing so.

The real question is how the Phils will handle Hamels, and what they have planned for him. Still just 22, the former first-round pick has thrown only 172 pro innings, including his work at Clearwater this month. The only reason he started the year in Florida was the weather; the Phillies didn't want him to stiffen up in the cold of a Pennsylvania April. In his first two starts with the Threshers, Hamels was well-nigh unhittable, but in his last two he scuffled a bit; in his Clearwater finale this past weekend, Hamels allowed four hits and five walks in 4 2/3 innings. Maybe he was bored.

Hamels did pitch briefly for AA Reading last summer and seemed up to the competition there: he won two of his three starts for the R-Phils, averaging a strikeout per inning and under five hits allowed per nine. Of course, after those three starts he was shelved for the rest of the year with back inflmmation.

Some speculation has it that Hamels, whose injury history includes elbow, thumb and back woes, simply doesn't have the stamina to pitch a full professional season at this point in his development. The Phils presumably will be watching this closely, and Hamels' progress at Scranton--the highest level of competition he's yet faced--should determine if--not when--he surfaces in Philadelphia during the 2006 campaign.