Cole Hamels could be ready to pitch for the Phillies as they wrap up a three-city West Coast trip in two weeks.
Hamels, working his way back to the rotation with an extended spring training of sorts, is scheduled to pitch for the Single-A Clearwater Threshers on Friday in Lakeland, Fla. and could need just one more start for Clearwater after that.
If everything goes as Hamels expects, that would be all he needs.
“I’ve been going up 15 pitches per game and I’m up to four innings, so the next one will be five or six innings,” Hamels said.
“It could be two more, I believe so. We’ll talk about it and discuss it. But everything is going well between starts. There is nothing in the back of my mind and nothing lingering. I’m letting it go good.”
Generally, six spring outings are preferred for starting pitchers as they build up into game shape. However, Hamels threw 50 pitches in a game on Monday in Clearwater plus another 15 in the bullpen afterwords. With two more starts, Hamels says he will throw approximately 90 pitches.
That should do it, he says.
“If I can get to 90 pitches, I’m game-ready,” Hamels said.
Meanwhile, three outings into his extended spring training, Hamels says he’s throwing all his pitches.
“I feel strong and I’m able to throw all five pitches,” Hamels said.
Of course the Phillies’ brass may want him to make that sixth start as an exercise of caution. If that’s the case, expect Hamels to zero in on May 2 to open a series at home against the Nationals.
Regardless, with Hamels back in two weeks at the earliest, the Phillies will need a fifth starter for the game on Saturday and possibly for two games after that. According to manager Ryne Sandberg, there are “two or three” candidates to take Saturday’s start.
Those in the running to get the nod are reliever Jeff Manship as well as minor-leaguers Jonathan Pettibone and David Buchanan. Pettibone allowed three runs on four hits and a walk over five innings in his lone start at Triple-A Lehigh Valley, while Buchanan pitched six shutout innings of two-hit ball his last time out.
Buchanan is slated to pitch for Lehigh Valley on Tuesday night, which puts him on schedule to make his debut on Saturday.