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Hamels out with neck stiffness

Left-hander expects to miss 'a few days,' could pitch this weekend
Special to MLB.com

CHICAGO -- When Rangers left-hander Cole Hamels couldn't sit comfortably on a three-hour flight from Seattle to Chicago on Wednesday, he knew the likelihood of making his scheduled start Thursday against the White Sox wasn't good.

Hamels woke up with tightness in his neck on Wednesday, and the discomfort worsened gradually throughout the day, before his neck "grabbed on him" while playing catch. Hamels found difficulty looking at the target and said his arm angle dropped, which alerted him to the fact that something wasn't right.

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CHICAGO -- When Rangers left-hander Cole Hamels couldn't sit comfortably on a three-hour flight from Seattle to Chicago on Wednesday, he knew the likelihood of making his scheduled start Thursday against the White Sox wasn't good.

Hamels woke up with tightness in his neck on Wednesday, and the discomfort worsened gradually throughout the day, before his neck "grabbed on him" while playing catch. Hamels found difficulty looking at the target and said his arm angle dropped, which alerted him to the fact that something wasn't right.

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The stiffness carried over into Thursday, when the Rangers scratched Hamels from his start and replaced him with Doug Fister, who took the mound on regular rest and hurled seven shutout innings in a 4-2 loss to Chicago.

Hamels expects to miss "a few days" with the injury.

"We don't want something to linger and stretch into multiple games, because it's not what we need at this time," Hamels said before Thursday's game. "It's just the unfortunate part sometimes when you're in hotels, and it kind of happens.

"If this is something that happened the day after [a start], you would get through it and get to the next game. But if it's something that happens right before your next start, [there's] not enough time to be able to get right and know you can go out there and give your team six, seven innings and 100 pitches without something really disastrous happening."

Manager Jeff Banister hasn't yet determined who will pitch Friday, when Fister was scheduled to pitch. Hamels does not believe he will feel well enough to pitch Friday, but Banister did not rule him out to pitch this weekend. Left-hander Matt Moore could also be a candidate to pitch Friday.

"Any time [neck discomfort] is so bothersome you're not able to make a start for a pitcher, you have to worry a little bit," Banister said. "I think if it lingers, we might have to do something else, but we'll be patient with him."

Video: TEX@HOU: Hamels tosses 6 shutout innings vs. Astros

Hamels (2-4, 3.48 ERA) was coming off his best start of the season, when he held the Astros to one hit and struck out five over six scoreless innings last Friday. Hamels expected to throw before Thursday's game, and again on Friday, before determining how he feels moving forward.

This is the first time Hamels said he has experienced neck stiffness during the season in his career. He said because of the risk of the condition worsening if he rushed back, he will do his best to remain patient.

"I think it's [about] being smart," Hamels said.

Jeff Arnold is a contributor to MLB.com based in Chicago.

Texas Rangers, Cole Hamels