Phils' Hamels back to square one

Posted: March 14, 2014

CLEARWATER, Fla. - The news wasn't quite as troubling as it had been 6 days earlier, when Cole Hamels said he was fatigued and not strong enough to throw to hitters.

But the reality remains the same: Hamels will not be in the rotation to start the season, his availability for April is in jeopardy and he's basically at square one of his spring-training regimen.

The lefthander threw a side bullpen session yesterday morning at Bright House Field and said his pitching arm felt "really good." But the Phillies break camp in Clearwater 2 weeks from today and last year's Opening Day starter may not pitch in the season's opening month.

"That's probably going to be the question that's going to be asked for a long time, because I can't give [an] answer that definite," Hamels said of pitching in April. "I'm just going to go on how I feel, how I recover, how the workouts go for the next couple of days and go into the next bullpen."

Exactly a month to the date, on Feb. 12, the day before the first workout for pitchers and catchers, Hamels sat in the lunch room at the Phillies' spring-training ballpark and told everyone he was entering camp "8-to-10 days" behind the rest of the pitchers. Hamels said his offseason program was slowed by biceps tendinitis in November.

He progressed toward throwing off the mound in the last week of February. But after his second bullpen session, on March 1, Hamels felt fatigued and his progress suffered a setback as a result.

Hamels returned to the mound yesterday for the first time in 11 days. After the 20-pitch session, Hamels said the side session was the equivalent to where he'd be when camp begins.

"The day before spring training, when you get down here," Hamels said.

Figuring pitchers and catchers begin working out the second week of February, Hamels has gone from "8 to 10 days" behind his fellow pitchers to a month behind schedule. And although he was encouraged following yesterday's 'pen session, Hamels also knows throwing off the mound is just a part of the process.

His recovery today - how his arm and body feel following yesterday's work - will provide a better sign for Hamels' progression.

"That was kind of the culprit [before]," Hamels said. "I was feeling great going into that bullpen [session on March 1] and then within the half-hour I could definitely tell my body went into shutdown mode and I didn't have the strength to be able to perform . . . Normally on the second day you feel soreness. When you're feeling soreness instantly, that definitely shows that my strength was not there. I feel great right now. I have confidence I'm going to feel great all day and tomorrow."

After saying he had done too much too soon 6 weeks earlier, resulting in a setback, it's safe to say both Hamels and the Phillies will proceed cautiously and not attempt to rush into a major league game.

When Hamels returns, he wants to be healthy and ready to go - not in line for another setback.

"I want to be out there competing because this is what I love to do, and I love to be the best at what I do," Hamels said. "I don't want to be here and be some sort of charity case. I'm here to win and help this team win and I want to pitch for a really long time."

Hamels is expected to throw off the mound again in another 2 to 3 days, pitching coach Bob McClure said. If he progresses without a problem, Hamels could attempt to face hitters again next week if he's feeling strong enough.

With 2 weeks remaining in the Grapefruit League schedule, Hamels has a shot at throwing in a game before his teammates leave Clearwater.

"It could happen," McClure said.

Hamels is entering his second season since signing a 6-year, $144 million contract extension in July 2012. The 2008 World Series MVP went 8-14 with a 3.60 ERA in 33 starts in last season.

Hamels might or might not throw his first pitch of 2014 in April. He simply doesn't know.

But Hamels, who said a month ago he wouldn't be ready for Opening Day, also said he's not "trying to hide" a much larger problem with his pricy left arm. He was reminded that some of his teammates have downplayed injuries in recent spring trainings.

"I don't try to hide anything, because it's not fair to anyone," Hamels said. "And trust me, I don't like having the part where I said one thing and then have to go back on it. I'd rather just throw it out there, be honest and accept the consequences, because you guys knew the consequences as opposed to having to hide something and then really taking the brunt end of it."

On Twitter: @ryanlawrence21


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