Spring Training reboot: Hamels returns to mound
Left-hander throws 20 pitches; hoping to pitch in Grapefruit League game this month
CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Cole Hamels is starting from the beginning again.
Hamels threw a 20-pitch bullpen session Wednesday morning at Bright House Field. It was the first time he'd thrown from a mound since March 1, when he suffered a setback following his recovery from inflammation in his left shoulder.
Hamels and Phillies pitching coach Bob McClure said Wednesday's session went well. However, based on the time Hamels has missed this spring, both acknowledged he essentially is starting his regular-season preparation from scratch.
"The day before Spring Training, when you get down here," Hamels said, when asked when he might throw a 20-pitch bullpen session during a typical spring.
"He may have another bullpen session and then get into a [batting practice] or so and feel like he could pitch in a game," said McClure. "It could go faster or it could be like from scratch. I can't tell you that right now. It's going to depend on where he's at. Whenever we decide to do his next 'pen, he might feel real good in that one and go right into BP."
Hamels is scheduled to throw his next bullpen session Friday or Saturday, but that depends how he feels Thursday.
If Hamels progresses from this point as everybody in Phillies camp hopes, McClure said there is a chance Hamels could pitch in a Grapefruit League game this month.
Pitching in a big league game in April is unlikely, although McClure did not completely rule out the possibility.
"Gosh, I hope so," McClure said. "But it's too far into the future for me to say that. Of course, we all hope so. The last thing you want to do is go backwards again.
"It was so easy for him coming in that it kind of surprised him and all of us when his arm was a little tired. But it happens. It happens to everyone. He went very hard as far as working his way back to this point before the setback."
"That's probably going to be the question that's going to be asked for a long time, because I can't give [an] answer that definite," Hamels added when asked if he'd pitch in the big leagues next month. "I'm just going to go on how I feel, how I recover, how the workouts go for the next couple of days and go into the next bullpen."
Hamels felt inflammation in his left shoulder in November, which forced him to delay his offseason throwing program. It also prevented him from his typical offseason strength program. The delay in Hamels' throwing program put him a couple weeks behind schedule when camp opened last month. He said the inability to lift weights and build muscle in the offseason contributed to the fatigued shoulder, which he felt when tried to ramp up his throwing program and make up for lost time.
Hamels compared the fatigued arm following his March 1 bullpen session to somebody who ran a marathon without the typical training. That person is just going to be sore.
Hamels has said from the very beginning he has no pain or structural damage in the shoulder. Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. also strongly denied the possibility, which is why Hamels has not received a MRI exam this month.
Of course, some remain skeptical. In recent Spring Trainings, Phillies fans have heard glowing reports about Chase Utley's knees, Ryan Howard's left leg and Roy Halladay's back and shoulder only to learn over the course of the season those issues remained.
Hamels said he isn't hiding anything.
"I've been pretty honest with you guys," he said.
When Hamels opened a Feb. 12 news conference announcing his shoulder issues, some thought Hamels hadn't needed to say anything, because they felt so strongly it was just a minor setback and Hamels was only a couple weeks behind schedule.
So maybe this truly is just an instance of a player pushing himself too hard. Maybe Hamels will return to the mound in May and make his remaining scheduled starts. But until then, his recovery will be watched closely and skeptically.
"I don't try to hide anything, because it's not fair to anyone," Hamels said. "And trust me, I don't like having the part where I said one thing and then have to go back on it. I'd rather just throw it out there, be honest and accept the consequences, because you guys knew the consequences as opposed to having to hide something and then really taking the brunt end of it."
Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.