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Hamels strikes out 14 in debut
04/27/2006 7:05 PM ET
PHILADELPHIA -- Who needs Double-A when you're Cole Hamels? The Phillies Minor League left-hander, who went from Class A Clearwater to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre earlier this week, appears to be gassing up the rocket ship himself for his meteoric rise to the Majors. Hamels dazzled on Thursday afternoon in his Red Barons debut, dominating the Mets' top Minor League club.

Hamels fanned 14 in seven shutout innings while walking none and allowing three hits.

Yes, that was 14 strikeouts.

"Everything was working really well," Hamels said. "In different situations, whenever I needed to make a pitch, I was able to do that. Everything was on. I had a good inside fastball that was moving. I was varying speeds, and that's always a big thing."

The Phillies have long believed that Hamels will be a strong part of their rotation for many years, but injuries have hindered his development. Brilliant when on the mound, the southpaw has pitched just 152 professional innings since 2003, with only 35 coming with Clearwater and Reading last season.

Health was the main factor in the team's decision to start Hamels in the warmer weather in Class A Clearwater, Fla., rather than colder Pennsylvania. Hamels toyed with the Florida State League, compiling a 1.77 ERA in four starts and striking out 29 in 20 1/3 innings.

That got him to Scranton.

The 14 strikeouts bring him that much closer to Philadelphia.

"If his ability is what we think it is, the opportunity will be here, sooner rather than later," said Mike Arbuckle, the team's assistant general manager of scouting and player development, in announcing that Hamels was being promoted to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. "Realistically, you can't put a timetable, because he's missed nearly two years of productive development time. He's got to perform at Triple-A over a stretch of time, and his actions over that stretch will show us when he has to be in Philadelphia."

Fourteen strikeouts and three hits allowed?

"It may be some time this year," Arbuckle said. "I don't think we're talking about something way down the road."

Down the road could be as early as May, as late as September, or even later, say 2007, but there's no question that Hamels has the Phillies anticipating his arrival. The first sign of his potential greatness came in 2004, when Hamels struck out the Yankees' Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez and Tony Clark in order in a Spring Training game.

He's so close now, and he couldn't have asked for a better Triple-A debut.

Well, maybe he could have.

"Maybe I could've gotten a couple of hits," Hamels said. "I didn't do well at the plate."

Neither do those who face him.

This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.