CLEARWATER, Fla. (AP) -- Philadelphia Phillies left-hander Cole Hamels threw off the mound for the first time this spring on Wednesday morning, an important step in his eventual return to the rotation.
Hamels made his first career opening day start in 2013 and is unlikely to be ready for the assignment this year.
Hamels entered camp behind schedule after battling biceps soreness in November. He was told to stop throwing and halt his weightlifting program for the rest of the winter.
On the mound, Hamels threw 35 pitches in his side session.
''Very encouraging,'' manager Ryne Sandberg said.
Although the Phillies expect Hamels to be ready at some point in April, they are not going to push him in an effort to get him to the mound on opening day or the first week of the season.
''If you do that with a guy, he's pressing to get ready for one, and that's the last thing we want to do,'' pitching coach Bob McClure said. ''Two, if he's only up to 60 pitches or something like that, now you're going to tax your bullpen. I know he's anxious because he feels so good. But I think we kind of need to take a cautious road here.''
McClure said Hamels looked ''really, really good'' in his workout.
The 30-year-old Hamels is in the second season since signing the most lucrative contract in Phillies history, a six-year deal worth $144 million.
Hamels often pitched in bad luck last year, racking up just one win in the season's first two months. But he had a 2.68 ERA in the season's final three months and reached the 200-inning plateau for the fourth straight season.
Hamels, the 2008 World Series MVP, finished at 8-14 with a 3.60 ERA in 33 starts.
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