CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Less than three weeks before season begins, the Philadelphia Phillies' 2013 Opening Day starter had yet to pitch to hitters in 2014.
Cole Hamels entered camp last month saying he was eight to 10 days behind the rest of the pitchers in camp following a bout with biceps tendinitis in November.
However, the left-hander's progress was slowed during the first week of March when he suffered a setback in his throwing program. Hamels, originally on tap to face hitters in a live batting practice session March 6, said he felt fatigued after his March 1 bullpen session. It was just the second time he threw off the mound this spring.
"I believe I threw 35 pitches," Hamels said. "To my body, it felt like a thousand."
Although Hamels didn't feel strong enough to face hitters during the first week of March, it may have been a minor blip on his road to rejoining the rotation at some point in April. Hamels is scheduled to throw a bullpen session March 12 in Clearwater.
There remains at least an outside chance that Hamels will work his way into a Grapefruit League game if he progresses without another setback. Still, the 30-year-old left-hander cannot put a timetable on his eventual return.
"I think that's the last thing I'm going to think about," Hamels said when asked if he could join the rotation at some point in April. "Ultimately, I just want to get back out and get on the mound and see how I'm going to fare there."
Without Hamels, the Phillies are likely to open the season with a rotation of Cliff Lee, Kyle Kendrick and free agent additions A.J. Burnett and Roberto Hernandez. Farmhand David Buchanan and non-roster players Jeff Manship and Sean O'Sullivan are among those competing for the fifth spot in the rotation -- although the Phillies will not need a fifth starter until the third week of the regular season.
Lee is the heavy favorite to make his first Opening Day start in a Phillies uniform on March 31 against the Rangers in Texas.
"Obviously, any time without him is not good," Lee said of Hamels. "He's one of the best pitchers in the game. We'd like to have him back as quickly as possible. But at the same time, there's nothing we can do about that. That's up to him to focus on his routine and rehab and do the things he has to do to get back. While he's doing that, we got to take care of business. Hopefully he gets back sooner than later."
--SS Jimmy Rollins, hitless in his past 12 at-bats this spring and batting .133 (2-for-15), was held out of three consecutive games March 11-13. Rollins wasn't certain if the benching was caused by remarks he made to the Philadelphia Daily News about preseason stats not counting, but manager Ryne Sandberg denied that was the case. Sandberg said he merely wanted to get a look at Freddy Galvis at shortstop, and that he thought Rollins needed a break.
--LHP Cliff Lee allowed a solo home run to the first batter he faced, Atlanta RF Jason Heyward, in his third start of the spring. Lee allowed two runs on three hits in 3 2/3 innings of an eventual 8-1 loss. Through three games this spring, Lee had 10 strikeouts and one walk in 8 2/3 innings.
--3B Cody Asche hit a three-run home run March 8 to lead the Phillies to an 11-3 win over the Astros. The home run was the first for Asche this spring. Asche, the front-runner for the third base job, entered March 11 hitting just .150 (3-for-20) in nine games this spring. 3B Maikel Franco, rated among Baseball America's top 20 prospects in the game, entered March 11 batting .200 (5-for-25) in 11 games.
--LHP Cole Hamels suffered a setback on his quest to join the Grapefruit League rotation in mid-March when arm fatigue prevented him from a previously scheduled date to face hitters in live batting practice on March 6. However, it might just be a small blip: Hamels is back on schedule to throw a bullpen session March 12. Hamels entered camp behind schedule after battling biceps tendinitis in November.
--RHP Jeff Manship suddenly finds himself in contention for the fifth starter's job, following injuries to Jonathan Pettibone and Ethan Martin, and with Cole Hamels unlikely to be ready for the at least the first two weeks of the season. The 29-year-old Manship, a non-roster spring training invitee, has allowed just one run through his first three appearances this spring. Manship struck out six and walked one in seven innings. Manship was 0-5 with a 7.04 ERA in 11 games with Colorado last season.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "It's March 10 and it's also spring training atmosphere, some guys get two at-bats, three at-bats and (they're) out (of the game). Sprinkled with days off in there, it's more of a choppy schedule for the guys. ... Maybe it's hard for guys to get into a groove, get into a rhythm." -- Manager Ryne Sandberg, on the Phillies' offense ranking last in several major categories -- including runs, batting average and on-base-plus-slugging percentage -- after the first two weeks of exhibition games.
LHP Cliff Lee
LHP Cole Hamels
RHP A.J. Burnett
RHP Kyle Kendrick
RHP Jonathan Pettibone or RHP Miguel Gonzalez or RHP Roberto Hernandez
The Phillies staff is bolstered by two premier starters in Lee and Hamels, who announced on Feb. 12 that he was behind on his throwing program and may not be available for the start of camp.
The club reportedly signed Burnett to fill the No. 3 spot in the rotation. Kendrick was signed to a one-year deal to avoid arbitration. The fifth spot is up for grabs between Pettibone, Gonzalez and Hernandez.
RHP Jonathan Papelbon (closer)
RHP Mike Adams
LHP Antonio Bastardo
LHP Jake Diekman
RHP Justin DeFratus
RHP Brad Lincoln
Philadelphia's bullpen was inconsistent last year and has a lot of questions coming into this year. Papelbon is the closer mainly because the Phils found no one to take his big contract off their hands. Adams is coming back off a shoulder injury. Bastardo is trying to return after a 50-game suspension. The rest of the bullpen will be made up of guys trying to solidify roles in the bullpen.
1. CF Ben Revere
2. SS Jimmy Rollins
3. 2B Chase Utley
4. 1B Ryan Howard
5. RF Marlon Byrd
6. LF Domonic Brown
7. C Carlos Ruiz
8. 3B Cody Asche
Not much changed from the veteran Phillies lineup that has been in place for the better part of the past seven years. Byrd, who had a fine 2013 with the Mets and Pirates, returns to the club that he broke into the majors with after signing a two-year deal in free agency. Ruiz also returns after inking a new three-year deal. Asche came up at the end of the 2013 season and showed promise, but could be pushed at third by hotshot prospect Maikel Franco. Ultimately, this team's fate will be determined by the performance of the big 3 in the lineup -- Rollins, Utley and Howard.
TOP ROOKIES: Asche, 23, played in 50 games for the Phils at the end of the 2013 season and is poised to be the club's everyday third baseman this season. During his time last year, Asche showed a good glove and some potential at the plate. He also did slump late in the year down to .235. With Franco waiting in the wings, Asche has to have a good year.
--LHP Cole Hamels (left biceps tendinitis) was scheduled to throw his first bullpen session in 11 days on March 12. Hamels, who came into camp behind schedule after battling biceps tendinitis in November, slowed his throwing program during the first week of camp, complaining of fatigue. He is likely to begin the season on the disabled list.
--RHP Mike Adams (right shoulder surgery in July 2013) will throw his fourth bullpen session of the spring March 12. Adams' next step is likely throwing a live bullpen session before making an appearance in a Grapefruit League game later this month.
--RHP Jonathan Pettibone (right shoulder soreness) was scheduled to face hitters in a live bullpen session March 12. Pettibone was shut down for two weeks at the beginning of camp. He also dealt with shoulder pain in 2013, when he was sidelined for the final two months of the season.
--RHP Ethan Martin (right shoulder capsule strain, triceps strain) was hurt Feb. 27. He was shut down until late March.
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