Hamels, who required a cortisone injection to cool down inflammation in his lower back in December, had an MRI on Wednesday in Clearwater, Fla., after experiencing more soreness and inflammation in the area.
The MRI, according to Hamels and general manager Pat Gillick, showed nothing different than in December, when Hamels was diagnosed with a back condition that Gillick said the pitcher might have to manage throughout his career.
"I don't think this will be a problem," Hamels said by telephone yesterday from Clearwater, where he has been working to get ready for spring training, which begins Feb. 16 for pitchers and catchers.
Hamels has been working with Phillies trainers to stabilize his lower back. He also has been throwing on flat ground.
"I thought I was having some natural soreness, but it increased on Tuesday and Wednesday so we had it checked," Hamels said. "I think I'll be OK to start throwing again on Monday."
Hamels did not have another injection. He is being treated with anti-inflammatory medicine.
"It's a bump in the road," Gillick said. "We didn't expect it, but I think we can work through it."
Hamels seemed to be on a fast track for the Phillies' rotation when he was forced from a July 19 start at double-A Reading by spasms in his lower back. He did not pitch again last season.
Hamels was seen by a number of back specialists. At first, he was thought to have a stress fracture in his lower back. He suffered a flareup in December and was diagnosed with a different condition in a subsequent examination.
"I've got an odd back compared to most people," Hamels said in an interview Monday in Clearwater. "The joint in my lower back just works differently. But I'm on a good program now and it shouldn't be a problem."
Hamels yesterday said this latest flareup was caused by "a degenerative disk that was putting pressure on a nerve."
Hamels was the Phils' top pick in the 2002 draft. Blessed with size (he was 6-foot-3 when he was drafted and now stands 6-4 1/2), a beautiful delivery and a change-up that makes jaws drop, he created his own hype with a spectacular showing during spring training 2004. In a game against the New York Yankees, he struck out Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez.
Since then, Hamels has had health problems, some self-inflicted. He strained his elbow late in the spring of 2004 and broke his pitching hand in a fight outside a Clearwater bar in January 2005. These injuries, along with last summer's back problem, have limited Hamels to just 10 starts the last two seasons.
Despite all this, Phillies officials believe Hamels has the talent, pitching savvy and mental makeup to arrive in the majors this season, if healthy. The plan is for him to start the season at double-A Reading, build innings, gain experience and move from there.
Hamels doesn't think this latest setback will alter that plan, though his health history mandates that the situation be watched.
"I know I need to prove to myself and the Phillies that I'm ready," Hamels said. "I have high expectations of myself. My goal for this season is still to be healthy and make a run at the rookie of the year."
Contact staff writer Jim Salisbury at 215-854-4983 or firstname.lastname@example.org.