Cole Hamels takes another step forward

Cole Hamels takes another step forward
March 22, 2014, 1:15 pm
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Late April or early May remains a realistic target for Cole Hamels' season debut. (AP)

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Cole Hamels threw the equivalent of two innings in a live batting practice session Saturday morning at Bright House Field and finished with this proclamation:

“I feel great.”

Pitching coach Bob McClure watched Hamels’ 30-pitch warmup followed by two 15-pitch innings and was impressed.

“The ball was coming out of his hand really well -- crisp, real clean,” McClure said. “He didn’t hold back on any pitches and had velocity and life. I was really happy with it.”

Hamels is about a month behind schedule because his offseason arm-conditioning program had to be halted when he experienced tendinitis in his shoulder in November. He had to slow his program down again earlier this month when he experienced shoulder fatigue.

Since getting back on the mound 10 days ago, Hamels has made noticeable gains.

“All the progressions I’ve been able to make for the last week and a half have definitely been positive,” Hamels said. “All the work I’ve been doing is really paying off.

“I have to thank the medical staff and the trainers for really narrowing down the type of program that I needed to get on and ultimately going out and accomplishing it.”

So what’s next for Hamels?

He could throw to hitters one more time in a live BP session or possibly head over to the minor-league complex to throw an inning or two in a game.

The plan will be determined in the next day or so when team officials monitor how the lefty bounces back from his most intense work yet.

“We’ll see how he is tomorrow,” McClure said. “You always wait till the next day to see how they are. But he’s had no issues of late. I don’t expect any either. We’re pretty stoked about it.”

Once Hamels is ready for games, he will likely need the equivalent of a Grapefruit League schedule -- about a month -- to be ready for regular-season action. May 1 has been a loose target, but McClure isn’t ruling out the last week of April.

“I’m just guessing, but he could be ready close to the end of the month of April,” McClure said. “I couldn’t say for sure. But if everything goes as scheduled, somewhere in the last week, I would think.”