Having missed the first few weeks of the season and most of spring training with a sore shoulder, Cole Hamels may finally be getting close to returning to the Phillies' starting rotation. After being sidelined for all of April with what was diagnosed as biceps tendinitis, the 6-8 Phillies could see their co-ace make his season debut next week during the team’s four-game series at home with the Los Angeles Dodgers.
“I would say that’s a distinct possibility,” Phillies assistant general manager Scott Proefrock told reporters on Wednesday. Proefrock added that Hamels is scheduled to make a rehab start on Thursday, pitching for the High-A Clearwater Threshers against the Lakeland Flying Tigers. Assuming he has no setbacks during the outing, his next start would likely come Tuesday or Wednesday – either the second or third game of the series against Los Angeles.
“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.”
Hamels, 30, has long established himself as a prominent piece of Philadelphia’s pitching staff and has been remarkably consistent throughout his career. The 2013 season was the fourth consecutive year that he’d topped 200 IP, and his 3.60 ERA and 1.159 WHIP were both in line with his career averages, though his ERA+ of 106 was his worst full-season mark since 2009. His 8-14 win-loss record was more symbolic of the struggles that the rest of the Phillies' roster endured for much of last season. Philadelphia's starters haven’t been wholly impressive to begin the 2014 season. Cliff Lee has rebounded from a disastrous Opening Day start and fired a complete game against the Braves on Wednesday, but A.J. Burnett is dealing with a hernia and has walked 14 through 16 innings. Kyle Kendrick and Roberto Hernandez have been better than league-average so far, and Jonathan Pettibone's lone start of the season was solid. But the return of Hamels will no doubt boost a rotation that could use some consistency.