Cole Hamels starts over with bullpen session

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

CLEARWATER, Fla. — Ten days passed since Cole Hamels last threw a baseball from a mound. Thirty-five pitches felt like a thousand to Hamels on March 1. So the Phillies ordered him to alter his strengthening program to cure the effects of a fatigued arm.

Hamels rebooted Wednesday morning. He fired 20 fastballs, and equated it to something he would do "the day before spring training." That was four weeks ago for the rest of the Phillies pitchers.

While Hamels admitted this will be a deliberate process, the $144 million lefthander felt encouraged. There is no pain in his shoulder. There is no timetable for his return, although if Hamels follows a typical progression, any major-league action in April is unlikely.

"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."

Pitching coach Bob McClure described Hamels as "free and easy" on Wednesday. He did not eliminate the possibility of Hamels appearing in a Grapefruit League game before the team breaks camp, but that will depend on Hamels feels in the coming days.

He must throw more bullpen sessions and face hitters in a controlled setting before game action is possible.

"It could go faster or it could be like [starting] from scratch," McClure said. "I can't tell you that right now. It's going to depend on where he's at."

Hamels entered camp behind schedule because of a biceps tendinitis that forced inactivity in December. On Feb. 12, he predicted he would miss opening day. He progressed as expected until that March 1 bullpen session.

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