Hamels ready for hitters

Phillies starting pitcher Cole Hamels. (Yong Kim/Staff Photographer)

The most newsworthy yet not surprising thing to come out of Cole Hamels latest side bullpen session followed by chat with the media: he will not be pitching in a game in Clearwater before the Phillies leave camp next week.

On Wednesday morning, with a week and a day remaining until camp breaks, Hamels threw about 40 pitches in his third bullpen session since being temporarily shut down earlier this month. Hamels said it went "really well."

Nearly two weeks removed from saying he wasn't strong enough to face hitters, slowing his spring training progression, Hamels gave himself the green light to do just that this weekend. He said he'll throw his first live batting practice session Saturday.

But when asked if a game would follow - the Phils have just five games remaining in Florida after Saturday - Hamels said that wouldn't be the smartest way to move forward.

"No, no," Hamels said of the possibility of jumping into a game following Saturday's live BP session. "I think it’s better being safe with two batting practices. The whole pitching staff has done that - where you have a 6-minute and an 8-minute (session against hitters). I think that gives you a better build-up going into game action, so it’s not as much of a shock on your body."

On Wednesday, Hamels upped his pitch count by about 10 pitches and added the cutter and changeup to the mix after strictly throwing fastballs this month. He'll likely work the curve ball in the next week.

Hamels is progressing, but after battling biceps tendinitis in November and being slowed due to fatigue earlier this month, he's also taking a cautious route to returning to the Phillies rotation, too. Hamels admitted to having some rust while throwing out of the windup for the first time in 2014 on Wednesday morning.

"Your balance is a little off," Hamels said. "There are a lot of moving parts when you’re as tall as me to get through the windup and be able to execute a pitch at the exact place that you’re intending to. But, it’s good. Now it’s a matter of getting the reps in with each pitch, perfecting the feel."

Barring setback, Hamels is likely to join the Phillies rotation in late April or early May.

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