On the bright side, Cole Hamels looked sharp in 2014 debut

On the bright side, Cole Hamels looked sharp in 2014 debut

The Philadelphia Phillies lost on Wednesday. That will happen another 60-70 times this year conservatively, so nothing really to be alarmed about here, other than the bullpen’s continued inability to get the job done.

If nothing else, at least Cole Hamels erased any doubt about where he’s at coming off the disabled list. In his first start of 2014, the one-time World Series MVP wasn’t anything less than we’ve come to expect despite earning the loss in a 5-2 defeat at the hands of the Los Angeles Dodgers. The Phillies’ win streak was snapped at three.

In short, Hamels did his job. The lefthander allowed two runs on six hits and one walk through six innings of work, striking out five. Hit ball had a lot of life, and the Dodgers didn’t exactly hit him hard—both good signs after missing the first few weeks with a dead arm.

When he exited the game, the Phillies were trailing 2-1.

There was a slight hint of controversy over Hamels’ early hook. King Cole was only up to 86 pitches at that point, and would later tell reporters there was plenty left in the tank. Can’t blame a great competitor for being unhappy with that.

After all, not only was the guy dealing. He was one of only four Phillies players in the starting lineup to come up with a base hit.

Given Hamels wasn’t even replaced in a pinch-hit situation, it’s difficult to argue this was anything less than a confounding move by Phils manager Ryne Sandberg. Watching relievers Jeff Manship and Mario Hollands let the game get away in the seventh and eighth frames only confirmed playing it overly safe with Hamels almost certainly was not the best option.

Not surprisingly, Philadelphia’s bullpen is already the worst in baseball with a 5.64 earned run average. The unit ranked 27th last season.

But I digress. The Phillies’ pen stinks, and there are few good solutions. At least with the return of a healthy Cole Hamels, maybe Sandberg won’t be as quick to rely on relief on another of the club’s every fifth day.

Former Phillies pitcher, Hall of Famer Jim Bunning dies at 85

Former Phillies pitcher, Hall of Famer Jim Bunning dies at 85

LOUISVILLE, Ky.-- Hall of Fame pitcher Jim Bunning, who pitched six seasons with the Phillies and went on to serve in Congress, has died. He was 85.

Bunning's death was confirmed by Jon Deuser, who served as chief of staff when Bunning was in the Senate. Deuser said he was notified about the death by Bunning's family.

Bunning won 224 games in a 17-year major-league career and pitched the first perfect game in modern National League history. It came with the Phillies on June 21, 1964.

He became the first pitcher after 1900 to throw no-hitters in both the American and National Leagues.

He belonged to a rare group of major league pitchers to throw a perfect game in the modern era.

A Kentucky Republican, he was the only member of the Baseball Hall of Fame to serve in Congress. He served in both the House and Senate.

Today's Lineup: Cesar Hernandez (groin) returns

Today's Lineup: Cesar Hernandez (groin) returns

Cesar Hernandez returns to the Phillies' punchless lineup Saturday afternoon against the Reds (4 p.m./TCN).

Hernandez, who missed Friday night's 5-2 loss with a groin injury, is back at second base and leading off. Hernandez has led off in all 44 games he's started this season. The fifth-year pro has struggled after getting off to a torrid start. He's hitting just .185 (10 for 54) over his last 14 games.

After bouncing around the lineup, centerfielder Odubel Herrera returns to his customary spot in the two-hole. Herrera's season is a microcosm of the Phils' woeful offense. An All-Star in 2016, Herrera is hitting just .227 this season. Manager Pete Mackanin hopes the Venezuelan will hit his way out of it soon (see story).

Here is the rest of today's lineup:

1. Cesar Hernandez, 2B
2. Odubel Herrera, CF
3. Aaron Altherr, LF
4. Tommy Joseph, 1B
5. Michael Saunders, RF
6. Maikel Franco, 3B
7. Cameron Rupp, C
8. Freddy Galvis, SS
9. Jerad Eickhoff, P