Cole Hamels could be just days away from making his 2014 debut, Phillies assistant general manager Scott Proefrock said.
Proefrock said Wednesday afternoon before the Phillies-Braves game at Citizens Bank Park that Hamels will make a rehab start for the Clearwater Threshers Thursday night against the Lakeland Flying Tigers in Clearwater, Fla.
Proefrock said Hamels, who has missed the first two weeks of the season with biceps tendinitis, could very well open the season at some point during the Phillies’ four-game series against the Dodgers in Los Angeles starting Monday.
“I would say that’s a distinct possibility,” Proefrock said.
Hamels, seventh in Phillies history with 99 career wins, was expected to be the Phillies’ opening-day starter before it was revealed early in spring training he was having shoulder issues.
Proefrock said the Phillies are not looking for a set number of pitches from Hamels Thursday, just a quality start that gives them the confidence that he’s ready to pitch in the majors.
“Obviously he wants to get stretched out so he’s ready to come up here,” Proefrock said. “But I’d be more concerned about the quality than the quantity.”
Proefrock said all reports have been encouraging on Hamels.
“He feels good,” he said. “Everything’s been very positive, so hopefully it will continue that way.”
Proefrock also gave updates on a few other guys on the disabled list -- Cuban defector Miguel Alfredo González, pitcher Ethan Martin and out fielder-first baseman Darin Ruf.
González has been battling shoulder problems, which resulted in the Phillies altering his contract from $48 million to $12 million. Martin was shut down back on March 1 with a shoulder strain. Ruf suffered a strained oblique during batting practice on March 20.
On González: Proefrock said González essentially is starting over and needs a full spring training before embarking on a possible rehab assignment.
“Miguel Alfredo González is close to getting on the mound,” Proefrock said. “He’s progressing well and certainly when he gets up to that point we’ll hopefully get him a rehab assignment as soon as he gets himself stretched out and things continue to progress.”
Proefrock said there’s no rush to get González up with the Phillies. At one point, González was expected to be a middle-of-the-rotation guy, but right now, the Phillies are being very cautious with him.
“I think we just want to make sure he’s comfortable,” Proefrock said. “He hasn’t pitched competitively in an awful long time, and it’s a matter of making sure he’s comfortable with his surroundings, comfortable with the organization, the process, and not feeling like he’s got to be somebody that comes right out here and produces for us. I don’t think that was ever our expectation of him after what happened with the health questions that led to the contract that we ended up signing him too.
“I think we want to be very careful with him and make sure he’s comfortable and really assimilated into the organization and the culture before we put him in that type of pressure situation. I think we want to make sure he’s 100 percent healthy, and we’re going to go slow with him and hopefully get him on a rehab assignment when he’s ready for that and see where he’s able to help us.”
On Martin: Proefrock said Martin, who had a 6.08 ERA in 15 games with the Phils last year, is getting close to making rehab appearances.
“Ethan Martin is throwing bullpens now and if things continue to progress he should be ready to do some sort of a rehab here in the near future,” he said.
Martin started eight games last year, but Proefrock said the original plan was for Martin to pitch in relief this year. He said it’s unrealistic to expect the 24-year-old Martin to make a huge difference in a bullpen that’s struggling.
“He has very little experience at the major-league level, so to expect him to be a stalwart in your bullpen is a little unrealistic probably,” Proefrock said.
On Ruf: Ruf, who hit .247 with 14 homers in 73 games for the Phils last year, was originally given a time-frame of four-to-six weeks before rejoining the Phils and Proefrock said that remains the case. Ruf is currently almost four weeks out from the injury.
“Darin Ruf has started baseball activities and should begin a hitting progression early next week,” Proefrock said. “The initial prognosis was four to six weeks and I don’t think anything’s changed in that.”