Hamels had yet to throw this spring after being shut down for two weeks with shoulder tendinitis. The left-hander threw 35 pitches off a mound on Wednesday morning, mixing in his fastball, cutter, and changeup without any issue.
"I was pain-free," Hamels said afterward. "Ultimately, 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 expects to throw two more bullpen sessions over the next few days and then begin participating in live batting practice sessions with hitters sometime next week. Within two weeks, Hamels hopes to be pitching for the Phillies in a Grapefruit League game.
Asked how far behind schedule Hamels is, Phillies pitching coach Bob McClure said, "I would probably say 10 days maybe. Maybe. But he looks healthy, he might not be 10 days. He might just be a week. Some guys just don't need as long in spring training. Some guys need longer."
Just prior to the start of spring training, Hamels stated he likely wouldn't be ready for Opening Day since he had to cut off his offseason throwing program in November with shoulder soreness. If Hamels continues progressing without feeling any pain, the 30-year-old shouldn't miss more than two starts in April, according to McClure.
Hamels had an up-and-down season in 2013, but still finished with a 3.60 ERA and more than four times as many strikeouts as walks, the third straight season he has achieved such a feat. The eight-year veteran had two strong seasons in 2011 and 2012, posting ERAs of 2.79 and 3.05 respectively, while also being named to the NL All-Star team in both campaigns. Despite struggling through persistent injuries in the minors, Hamels has been quite durable for the Phillies, throwing at least 180 innings every season since 2006.
Assuming Hamels is healthy for 2014, the Phillies figure to have one of the better rotations in the NL. The club signed A.J. Burnett to a one-year deal earlier in February and also has Cliff Lee under contract for at least two more seasons. Kyle Kendrick should also feature in Philadelphia's rotation, with Jonathan Pettibone and Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez vying for the final spot in the team's rotation.