Hamels' ailing elbow to be checked

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- World Series MVP Cole Hamels left training camp Monday and flew to Philadelphia to have his left elbow examined by Phillies team physician Dr. Michael Ciccotti.

"He's had a little bit of a persistent soreness in his elbow. We do not believe it's serious," Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said. "But at least at this time we thought it was important for Dr. Ciccotti to check him out and see if there's anything more serious than we think it is."

The 25-year-old left-hander made his first Grapefruit League start Wednesday. He pitched in an intrasquad game Sunday and didn't report any pain during four innings.

Hamels feels tightness in his elbow between innings and after he's finished pitching for the day.

"I was able to throw yesterday," Hamels said. "It's just been that kind of mild discomfort, something I don't want to have to deal with during the season. So if we can figure it out and somehow lessen the inflammation and the discomfort, I'll be able to throw and be productive."

Hamels pitched 262 1/3 innings last year, the first season in an eight-year professional career that he avoided the disabled list.

Hamels did not pitch in his junior year of high school due to a broken arm. In 2004, his second full year in the Phillies organization, he spent time on the disabled list with left elbow tendinitis and later with elbow soreness.

Before the 2005 season, he broke his throwing arm in a bar fight. After making his debut that season in June, he stopped pitching in mid-July because of a back injury.

Since making his major league debut in 2006, he's been placed on the major league disabled list for a left shoulder strain in May of that year and again in August of 2007.

Hamels, who agreed to a $20.5 million, three-year contract two months ago, had a thorough exam that came back clear before that deal was finalized. The team hopes he can start the major league season opener at home against Atlanta on April 5.

"It's a possibility, I guess, but we won't know anything until the doctor sees him," Amaro said. "Right now, he's still on course to do that. We'll see if there are any issues, any further issues."

Hamels is 38-23 with a 3.43 ERA in 84 big league games. The 17th overall pick in the 2002 amateur draft, Hamels finished 14-10 with a 3.09 ERA in a career-high 33 starts in 2008.

"There are 20 days to Opening Day. My body and my shoulder are pretty much ready," Hamels said. "It's just trying to get that mild discomfort out. This will obviously set me back a couple of days, and I don't think that should be a big deal."


The Phillies optioned RHPs Andrew Carpenter, Drew Naylor and Scott Nestor, and LHP Sergio Escalona to the minors. RHP Blaine Neal, LHP Antonio Bastardo, Cs Tuffy Gosewisch and Paul Hoover, and INFs Mike Cervenak, J.J. Furmaniak, Jorge Velandia and Andy Tracy were reassigned to their minor league camp.