CLEARWATER, Fla. — The first pitch of spring training was reserved for Cole Hamels until tenderness in his left shoulder altered the schedule. Roberto Hernandez christened Bright House Field with a sinker at 1:08 p.m., five hours after Hamels passed an important test.
He threw a 35-pitch bullpen session Thursday morning under the watchful eyes of Bob McClure. The Phillies pitching coach was so enthused by Hamels' first time on a mound he proclaimed him "100 percent healthy" and predicted Hamels would not miss more than two regular-season starts.
Could Hamels pitch opening day?
"He could probably do it because of the way he's throwing now," McClure said, "but let's not push it."
Hamels agreed. He plans to throw two more bullpen sessions, then two live batting practices. That could place him in a Grapefruit League game by the second week of March. Hamels said he needs four spring starts to adequately prepare.
The Phillies do not need a fifth starter until their ninth game, April 10 at Citizens Bank Park against Milwaukee. Hamels, conceivably, could make his season debut then — if not before.
"I feel like I'm in a really good position to progress and get into the schedule like everybody else did a couple of weeks ago," Hamels said.
The Phillies were never overly concerned with Hamels, and dissuaded him from announcing his injury to reporters on the day pitchers and catchers reported to camp. He reported the biceps tendinitis in his left shoulder to Phillies athletic trainers in late November and they suspended his throwing program.
That, Hamels said, made all the difference.
"I am able to be in a better position probably than I thought I would be when this first came up," Hamels said. "We hit it at the right time. We really got after it right away. I didn't let it linger. Some guys wait until spring training to let people know what happened in the offseason. I really didn't want that to happen."
Have a question? Send it to Matt Gelb's Mailbag.