FORT MYERS, Fla. -- In two Grapefruit League starts, one against the Yankees and another against the Red Sox, Cole Hamels has yet to allow an earned run and has given up just two hits in a combined six innings.
That's an accomplishment for any pitcher, even if it is only early March.
"I think it helps me get focused, knowing these guys are the best, having the Yankees, having Boston," Hamels said after Philadelphia's 2-0 win over Boston on Thursday. "These guys are really good. Even though they're working on some things, I think it just kind of prepares you for the season knowing that you're going to have to face some really good guys one through eight."
After a long bus ride to City of Palms Park, Hamels was perfect for the first two innings Thursday, and nothing was hit fair to the outfield off him until the third inning, when Mike Cameron led off with a double. That was the only hit Hamels allowed in the four-inning, 50-pitch effort (29 for strikes). Hamels walked one and struck out Dustin Pedroia, Kevin Youkilis and J.D. Drew.
"I think my changeup felt a lot better," Hamels said. "I was able to throw it where I wanted to. I got a lot of pulled foul balls. I think the cutter's coming along, it's just that mechanical feel, and once I'm able to really do that and repeat it over and over, I know it's going to do really well."
Hamels worked most of the offseason on arm strength, so he's focusing most this spring on making sure his mechanics are proper. That comes with repetition.
"I think that's just the hardest thing to do, is getting on the mound and throwing with hitters and not tipping your pitches and making sure every pitch your mechanics are fully sound," Hamels said.
Hamels was brilliant in the second half of last year, posting a 2.23 ERA. He's credited that change to an adjustment in his arm angle that subsequently let him keep the ball down in the zone more consistently.
Hamels is expected to throw 65-75 pitches in his next outing. He threw 33 pitches and allowed an earned run in two innings against the Yankees on Saturday.
Status quo regarding Utley's right knee
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Thursday's update on Chase Utley's right knee was, in essence, a non-update.
"It's not good news or bad news," said Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. "It's same news. I wish he was out here playing, of course."
An MRI on Saturday revealed patellar tendinitis, and the Phillies have told Utley to rest and employ a take-it-slow approach. A cortisone shot or surgery aren't looming, Amaro said. Utley can't run or go through fielding drills, but he has been able to take batting practice.
"He's getting better, it's just a matter of time untill we'll be able to turn him loose more and basically get him into a game," manager Charlie Manuel said. "It's taking some time."
2010 Spring Training - Philadelphia Phillies
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Spring Training Info
But there's only a finite amount of time, of course, before the start of the regular season. Amaro would like Utley to play in 10 Grapefruit League games to feel comfortable having him in the Opening Day lineup. Under that timeframe, that would give Utley more than two weeks to be able to return to game action.
In the case that Utley isn't available, Amaro isn't planning to reshuffle his roster at this point.
"I'm not going to be doing anything else because of this," Amaro said. "I mean, we'll watch some of the other guys play, but we expect [Utley] to be our second baseman."
Delwyn Young, 28, has played 70 games at second base in the Majors since 2007, but he isn't being looked at as a possible replacement.
"I don't think that he would be an everyday second baseman, at least from what we've seen so far," Amaro said. "But we don't think that we're going to need one. I mean, can he be out there? Yeah ... [but] he wouldn't be considered a plus defender."
Amaro impressed with rebuilt Red Sox
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said he didn't look at Thursday's Red Sox-Phillies matchup at City of Palms Park as a potential October preview. He did, though, single out one of the two teams as the best in baseball, and it wasn't his own.
"This is the best club in baseball, I think," Amaro said, referring to the Red Sox. "The combination of speed, power pitching, bullpen, they're a [heck] of a ballclub. [They] don't have a whole lot of holes."
The Phillies and Red Sox made the loudest splashes of anyone in their respective leagues this offseason, and that's made them the early favorites to win their respective pennants, too. Cliff Lee's addition makes Philadelphia's rotation not just one of the best for 2011, but potentially one of the best in recent memory. Boston's already intimidating lineup received not one, but two stars: Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez.
To Amaro, the Red Sox's winter was "fantastic." Boston was already impressive, he said, because of all it went through health-wise last year.
"Anytime you bring that kind of talent to your club, they did a heck of a job," Amaro said. "They already had a great team except for a whole [heck] of a lot of injuries. For them being in the race to hang around as decimated as they were, they were decimated every bit as much as the Mets were a couple years back [in 2009]."
Asked who he felt looked best on paper over the winter, manager Charlie Manuel wasn't quite as firm in his sentiments, but he did tip his hat to the Red Sox.
"As far as improvement over the winter, Boston definitely," said Manuel. "If you go position by position on the field, they improved their team quite a bit."
Designers picked for Ballgirls uniform challenge
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Fourteen Philadelphia-area designers have been named finalists in a contest to design the uniform of Phillies Ballgirls.
The Phillies and Macy's selected the finalists in the Phillies Ballgirls Uniform Design Challenge after a week-long judging process, and each finalist is to showcase their vision in a runway show at Macy's Center City on March 31. The winning design will be selected by a panel of judges and then worn at select off-field community appearances during this season.
"The submissions we received for the Macy's Phillies Ballgirls Design Challenge were just fantastic," said Michele DeVicaris, who oversees the Phillies Ballgirls. "Each of the designers selected has a keen eye for what's fresh and fashionable, and we can't wait to join our fans in seeing these creations come to life."
Left-hander Cliff Lee threw a side session Thursday. Pitching coach Rich Dubee was late to arrive to Fort Myers, Fla., because he stayed behind to watch Lee throw. ... General manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said that right-hander Brian Schlitter has been bothered by a tender elbow. He started throwing on Wednesday. ... Manager Charlie Manuel said southpaw Antonio Bastardo could make his Grapefruit League debut on Friday at some point behind starter Joe Blanton in a 1:05 p.m. ET game against the Pirates in Bradenton, Fla. Bastardo battled soreness in his throwing elbow earlier in the spring.