Phils lefty Hamels set to make major-league debut

PHILADELPHIA -- Cole Hamels is no longer only in Philadelphia's future plans.

He's here now and the Phillies can only hope their top pitching prospect will develop into a true homegrown ace who can help lead the organization back into the playoffs for the first time since 1993.

The Phillies will call up the 22-year-old Hamels, their first-round pick in 2002, to make his major-league debut Friday against the Cincinnati Reds.

"I'll tell him to throw about 10 shutouts, and then from there I'll evaluate him," Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said with a big laugh before Wednesday night's game.

Hamels is considered one of the organization's prized prospects and he's lived up to the hype in the minor leagues this season. The left-hander went 3-1 with a 1.04 ERA in seven minor-league starts this year. He has 65 strikeouts in 43 1/3 innings and opposing batters are hitting just .168 against him.

Even with the Phillies in second place in the NL East going into Wednesday night's game against New York, Philly fans were buzzing about when Hamels would be called up. Hamels said it was hard not to hear all the hype, especially pitching at nearby Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.

"That just gets me more excited to go out and play," he said.

Hamels has been dominating in his last three starts, all at Triple-A. Hamels went 2-0 with a 0.39 ERA, 36 strikeouts and just one walk in 23 innings for the Red Barons.

Hamels, wearing his No. 35 uniform, said he expected to be with the Phillies by May.

"Deep down, yes I did," he said. "I was executing on everything I possibly could. I just needed another challenge out there for me. I think that's what's going to be in store for me."

Hamels will take Ryan Madson's spot in the rotation, moving Madson back to the bullpen. Madson went 15-8 with a 2.94 ERA in 130 appearances in the bullpen from 2003-05 and was 3-1 with a 6.82 ERA in six starts this year.

"I take it as a failure on my part," Madson said. "If I was doing well, I wouldn't be the one who'd be shuffled around."

Hamels has been hampered by injuries the previous two seasons and pitched in just 10 games over two years. Last season, he missed two months after breaking his pitching hand in a fight in February and was shut down for the year in July with back problems.

"I think I feel more confident mentally and physically now that I'm able to go out and play every day and feel good," he said.

But when he hasn't been injured, Hamels has been brilliant. He has gone 14-4 with a 1.43 ERA in 35 minor-league starts with 273 strikeouts.

"All of our baseball people feel like he's ready," Manuel said.

Braves manager Bobby Cox saw Hamels pitch in spring training and considered him a future ace.

"He may not shoot the lights out right away, but he's going to be a heck of a pitcher," he said.

The Phillies plan to make a roster move to clear space for Hamels before Friday's game.

"It's a lot different up here, things can change in a heartbeat," Hamels said.