Phillies Notebook: Hamels hopeful of returning faster than expected

CHARLES FOX/STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER The Phanatic opens with a dance number
CHARLES FOX/STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER The Phanatic opens with a dance number
Posted: April 10, 2014

BEFORE RYAN BRAUN played the role of the Grinch Who Stole the Home Opener, Cole Hamels shared encouraging news for Phillies fans: He could return to the rotation earlier than expected.

Three hours before the Phillies and Milwaukee Brewers play in the first game at Citizens Bank Park in 2014, Hamels stood inside the home dugout and sounded confident he would be off the disabled list and on the mound in 2 weeks.

Hamels made the first start of his official rehab assignment (and third game overall) on Sunday, pitching four innings at Class A Clearwater. But after getting his pitch count up to 65 (50 in the game, 15 more in a poststart bullpen session), Hamels said he might need only two more rehab starts before being activated from the disabled list.

"I believe the big test is the pitch count," Hamels said. "If I'm able to get 90 pitches, I know that I'm game-ready. Because that gives me enough pitches and enough reps with my pitches to be able to go out there and have the confidence I can throw, especially to big league guys."

Hamels' next start will come Friday at Class A Clearwater. The following day, the Phillies will use a fifth starter for the first time this season.

As long as Hamels continues his current progression, he could jump into the rotation as soon as Tuesday, April 22, at Dodger Stadium (the date and place the unnamed fifth starter would be on tap for his third start).

Sandberg said Hamels will throw 75 to 80 pitches on Friday and confirmed Hamels' words that the goal was to get to 90 before rejoining the Phillies.

"He's feeling good about everything," Sandberg said. "So that's going well."

Hamels entered spring training 2 months ago behind schedule after experiencing biceps soreness in November and then had his rehab set back in early March while feeling fatigue. But his rehab has been on a straight line upward ever since.

"I think that's something we'll talk about and discuss with how I'm feeling," Hamels said of returning after only two more rehab starts. "Because I do feel really great. Everything has been going really well in between days, the day after, my bullpens. I do, I feel nothing is in the back of my mind. There's nothing lingering. I'm ready to go, and they're letting me go."

The duration of Hamels' rehab will take place in Clearwater. If he ends up needing three more rehab starts, Hamels would return on Sunday, April 27, in Arizona - the last game of a 10-game, three-city trip out West.

As for the unnamed fifth starter, David Buchanan, the likely front-runner, made his second start of the season at Triple A Lehigh Valley last night, allowing two runs on seven hits in five innings. Buchanan threw six shutout innings in his first start, but would be pitching on short rest if he starts for the Phillies on Saturday.

Other candidates for the spot include Jonathan Pettibone (also in Lehigh Valley's rotation) and Jeff Manship (in the Phillies bullpen).

"We'll make a decision in the next day or two," Sandberg said.

Utley out sick

Chase Utley was sent home by manager Ryne Sandberg a half-hour after he arrived at the ballpark. The manager said Utley was "sick as a dog" from the flu.

After the game, Sandberg was unsure about Utley's availability for tonight's game against the Brewers. Utley began feeling ill on Sunday in Chicago, the manager said.

"It's too early to tell [about tonight]," Sandberg said. "He was totally under the weather this morning."

Jimmy Rollins, Domonic Brown, Kyle Kendrick and Justin De Fratus were among a seemingly never-ending list of Phillies player who battled the flu this spring in Clearwater, Fla.

"We need him to get well, first and foremost," Ryan Howard said. "Hopefully, he's at home relaxing and trying to get better."

Utley entered the day leading the National League with a 1.369 OPS. After the first week of the season, Utley leads the team in hitting (.458), OBP (.536), slugging percentage (.833), home runs (two) and total bases (20).

Carlos Ruiz hit in Utley's place in the third spot in the Phillies' batting order. He worked a two-out walk in the first inning and scored the game's first run when Howard and Marlon Byrd followed with a double and single, respectively.

Cesar Hernandez started at second base.

Revere shaky in center

For the second straight game, Ben Revere's defense in centerfield came into question.

Revere appeared to get a bad jump on a ball hit in front of him in the third inning for a bloop single. With two outs in the seventh, after the Phillies rallied to cut their deficit to 6-4, Revere tracked down a ball hit to the warning track, but dropped it as he struck the wall.

The Brewers scored on the play.

"I felt the fence coming," Revere said. "I took my eyes off the ball right before I hit the fence."

Revere flubbed a line drive hit at home Sunday at Wrigley Field.

"For me, it's still early in the season," Sandberg said of Revere's defense. "In Texas, he made some good plays and we've been stressing defense since the first day of spring training, and it showed early . . . I intend to see that get better as we go along."

Clearwater rehab

Freddy Galvis went 1-for-4 with a triple in the first game of his rehab assignment at Class A Clearwater on Tuesday night.

Galvis has been sidelined since March 17 with a knee bruise that became infected. He was diagnosed with a MRSA infection on March 21.

Galvis has been doing baseball activities for a little more than a week and began playing in games in extended spring training this weekend. He could be activated off the disabled list within the week.

"Freddy is doing well," Sandberg said before yesterday's game. "He's on the fast track."

Mike Adams also appeared in the game, pitching a perfect sixth inning (a strikeout and two ground-ball outs). Adams, who was making his second appearance for the Threshers, is expected to rejoin the Phillies in mid-April.

On Twitter: @ryanlawrence21


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