CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Cole Hamels emerged from his first bullpen session in 12 days with a smile on his face Wednesday morning. The pitcher said the fatigued left shoulder that forced him to shut down throwing workouts last week was feeling “really great” after a period of rest and therapy.
Despite being encouraged, Hamels warned that he would not rush himself to be ready to pitch in April. In fact, he equated Wednesday morning’s 20-pitch bullpen session to one he would throw the day before reporting to spring training.
In other words, last week’s setback has left him a month behind schedule. Spring training is now a month old with less than three weeks remaining before the season opener. Hamels typically needs a six-week spring training to be ready for the season. That would put things close to May 1 before he could be ready to pitch in a regular-season big-league game.
Pitching coach Bob McClure hopes Hamels can be ready before that. “But it's too far into the future for me to say that,” McClure said. “The last thing you want to do is go backwards again. It was so easy for him coming in [to camp] 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.”
Hamels would not put an estimate on when he could be ready for the season. He warned again that he would remain methodical and listen to his body.
“I know things can change, unexpected things can happen, but ultimately I think we’re really just going to try to focus on this month and see where I am,” Hamels said. “I know from a lot of guys who have injuries or are trying to build up that you can’t go day to day sometimes because it can drag you down. You kind of have to go week to week or month to month to see what you accomplish from that first part to the end. I feel like by the end of the month I’m going to have a really good handle on where I am and what I can do.”
Hamels said he could have thrown more than 20 pitches, but he’s committed to building up slowly. He believes he ramped up his recovery from offseason shoulder tendinitis too quickly and that led to his having a setback after his March 1 bullpen session.
“I could have gone more but I’m just really trying to get there the best I can so that I’m the best prepared and have the strength to go into the season so that I can last the whole season,” Hamels said.
The shoulder “feels really good,” Hamels added. “The past couple days it’s felt really great. I’ve done exercises to kind of get the mobilization, get the range of motion back. We’ve tested the strength from all the angles just to make sure that I’m safe and everything is going to be working properly. That was helpful, along with the program we’ve been able to do for 12 days. I think that’s been beneficial.”
McClure said he was excited about what he saw from Hamels during the brief bullpen session.
“He threw free and easy -- no pain,” McClure said. “He hasn't had any real pain anyway. It's just been kind of a dead-arm period, I think.
“It went well. No setbacks. As he threw more, he increased the effort and the velocity. Those are all good signs instead of going the other way.”
McClure said Hamels would throw another bullpen session in a day or two, depending on how the pitcher felt during a next-day evaluation Thursday.
How Hamels bounces back is almost as big a concern as how he felt during the bullpen session. On March 1, he threw 35 pitches in the bullpen. The next day he said it felt like he threw 1,000.
“That was kind of the culprit,” Hamels said. “I was feeling great going into that bullpen and then within a half hour I could definitely tell my body went into shutdown mode and I didn’t have the strength to be able to perform. And I knew the next couple of days weren’t going to be great.
“Normally on the second day you feel soreness. When you’re feeling instant soreness that definitely shows that my strength was not there. I feel great right now. I have confidence I’m going to feel great all day and tomorrow I believe that the recovery is going to be there.”
Hamels continues to say he is not hurt and that he is not hiding anything.
“Nah,” he said. “I’m always honest and up front with you guys. I don’t try to hide anything because it’s not fair to anyone. 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 as opposed to having to hide something and then really taking the brunt end of it.
“Trust me, I’m doing everything I possibly can. Being the first one here and the last one to leave because I want to be out there competing. This is what I love to do and I love to be the best at what I do so I don’t want to be here and be some sort of charity case. I’m here to win and help this team win and I want to pitch for a really long time, so ... ”