Hamels Starting From Scratch Again

Cole HamelsCole Hamels is starting from the beginning again.

He threw a 20-pitch bullpen session this morning at Bright House Field. It is the first time he has thrown from a mound since March 1, when he suffered a setback following his recovery from inflammation in his left shoulder. Hamels and Phillies pitching coach Bob McClure said today’s session went well, but based on the time Hamels has missed this spring both acknowledged he essentially is starting his regular-season preparation from scratch.

“The day before Spring Training, when you get down here,” Hamels said, when asked when he might throw a 20-pitch bullpen session during a typical spring.

“I would say he’s a little bit ahead of scratch,” McClure said. “He may have another bullpen session and then get into a BP or so and feel like he could pitch in a game. It could go faster or it could be like from scratch. I can’t tell you that right now. It’s going to depend on where he’s at. Whenever we decide to do his next pen, he might feel real good in that one and go right into BP.”

Hamels is scheduled to throw his next bullpen session Friday or Saturday, but that depends how he feels Thursday.

If Hamels progresses from this point like everybody in Phillies camp hopes, McClure said there is a chance Hamels could pitch in a Grapefruit League game this month.

Pitching in a big-league game in April is remote, although McClure did not completely rule out the possibility.

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Stutes Outrighted from 40-Man

Michael StutesThe Phillies have a host of non-roster invitees that have a chance to make the Opening Day roster.

The list includes outfielder Bobby Abreu and right-handers Shawn Camp, Jeff Manship and David Buchanan.

Those possibilities and others are why the Phillies announced today they have outrighted right-hander Michael Stutes from the 40-man roster. More moves like this could be coming before Opening Day on March 31 in Texas.

The move gives the Phillies 39 players on the 40-man.

Stutes, who cleared waivers, is in Minor League camp. He has battled shoulder injuries the past two seasons. His fastball averaged 93 mph in 2011, but hit just 88-89 mph this spring.

“It was based on what we’ve seen this spring and the last couple of months last season,” Ruben Amaro Jr. said. “And we have guys in camp that we’re looking at for the rotation, the bullpen and the bench. This just opens up a spot for us.”

Of course, the Phillies also could add from outside the organization, but at this time a player already in camp being moved onto the 40-man roster is more likely.

Sandberg Not Concerned with Woeful Offense

Ryne SandbergThe Phillies entered this afternoon’s Grapefruit League game against the Braves with a .595 OPS, which was the worst mark in baseball.

Then they scored just one run and picked up just six hits in today’s 8-1 loss.

“It’s March 10,” Ryne Sandberg said afterward. “It’s also a Spring Training atmosphere. Some guys are two at-bats, three at-bats and out. Sprinkled with days off in there, kind of a choppy schedule for guys. We’re still seeing everybody, giving everybody ample at-bats. Maybe it’s hard for guys to get into a groove and get into a rhythm. Guys are seeing the ball, getting their eyes adjusted. That could come into play. But when I look at the potential of the lineup and the potential bats we have together, I see an offense that has potential of doing some things. I put a lot on it being March 10.”

Hamels Suffers Setback

Ryne Sandberg, A.J. Burnett, Cole HamelsThis is not good news.

Cole Hamels suffered a setback in his recovery from inflammation in his left shoulder, which makes his chances of pitching in April seem remote. He said he feels no pain in his shoulder, but his arm is “fatigued out.” He said no MRI or cortisone injections are scheduled, and he hopes to throw off a mound again sometime within the next week.

“I know nothing has gone wrong,” Hamels said this morning about his shoulder. “Trying to get in the best possible shape that I can in sort of a rushed, competitive atmosphere, something’s going to not want to push it a little more so it prevents the injury. Ultimately my body is telling me, ‘Hey, slow it down a little bit and start over in a certain way so that you can prevent injury but build up for the long haul.’”

That is the hope in Phillies camp: Hamels simply pushed himself too hard, too fast.

“I think any time you use and abuse your arm you’re going to get inflammation,” Hamels said. “But no, I wouldn’t say it’s painful. I think ultimately when people think about the shoulder and not being able to throw a baseball, they think injuries, tears, the pain indication. It’s not that. It’s really tired and it was kind of more difficult to go through the throwing motion, let alone try to throw something very competitive.”

But players almost always offer rosy outlooks about their health – in recent seasons Roy Halladay, Ryan Howard, Chase Utley and Brad Lidge all publicly stated they were healthy in Spring Training only to struggle with their health during the season – so the fact Hamels seemed to be progressing quite nicely and suddenly has to stop throwing is a concern.

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The Phillies Shift

Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman stepped to the plate today and the Phillies stepped to the right side of the infield.

They employed a defensive shift against Freeman, which has been a rarity for the Phillies in the past. According to Baseball Info Solutions, the Phillies shifted just 45 times last season, which ranked 29th in baseball. More and more teams recognize the value of a defensive shift, which is why Ryne Sandberg said the Phillies will shift more in 2014.

“We’re going to play with it a little bit,” he said after today’s 2-2 tie with the Braves at Bright House Field. “Once we get our charts and everything, make a decision; sometimes it may be dependent on the game.”

Sandberg said the Phillies discussed using the shift more during the offseason. The Phillies will use video and spray charts on hitters, which show where they hit the ball against right-handed and left-handed pitchers. They also have charts on their own pitchers, which will tell them where hitters seem to hit the ball when they are on the mound.

“The option will also be provided to the starting pitcher, that type of a situation, according to how they’re going to pitch,” Sandberg said. “So it will be coordinated. … We’ll be smart with it and do what makes sense. It’s something that’s grown and the information is there. Teams have had some success doing that, so that’s something to think about and apply.”

Early Losses Bother Sandberg

Ryne SandbergThe Phillies dropped to 1-6 in Grapefruit League play with tonight’s 5-3 loss to the Blue Jays.

Do the early losses bother Ryne Sandberg? It is just one week of Spring Training, after all.

“Absolutely,” he said. “I don’t like losses. You like to win games. It seems like in some of these games it’s been a one-inning type of thing. A crooked number in one inning. But our offense hasn’t come alive to overcome a crooked number by the other team. Six hits tonight, the two-run homer by (Marlon) Byrd and then we’re quiet after the third inning. So a lot of zeroes up there on the offensive side.”

The Phillies finished the night hitting just .194, which is the worst mark in baseball this spring.

But it is just one week of games. Countless players have had poor springs and played well during the regular season, so not much can be read into it.

“It seems to me like we get the bases loaded every game and don’t get anything out of it,” Sandberg said. “We get two guys on and we don’t get anything out of it. It’s about getting a big hit in an early Spring Training game like this. It seems like we haven’t had too much offense later in the games. It’s something we have to work on. With more at-bats usually the guys start swinging the bat better.”

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Maikel Franco has impressed the Phillies early in camp.

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Erik Kratz talks about going on the Phillies cruise after the Phillies traded him, and Larry Andersen and Scott Franzke go Western with bolo ties.

Asche Gets Hit, Seems Just A Bruise

ascheSince the Phillies played their final game in 2013 they have preached the importance of health.

They believe if they are healthy they will win.

They suffered a scare this afternoon at Bright House Field, when Pirates pitcher Yao-Hsun Yang hit Phillies third baseman Cody Asche on the right hand with a pitch in the fifth inning. Asche left the game, but the Phillies said afterward it is a bruise and a preliminary ultrasound exam came back negative. He could have more tests Monday, if needed.

It sounded much worse than a bruise when the pitch first struck him. It could be heard throughout the ballpark.

“It scared me,” said Asche, who is the favorite to be the Opening Day third baseman. “It feels like it should feel if you got hit by a pitch, but it doesn’t feel like it’s something serious. That’s good. They don’t seem concerned about a break.”

Amaro Encouraged with MAG

Alfredo Miguel GonzalezThe Phillies have tempered expectations for Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez since they signed him to a $12 million contract in August.

He allowed two hits, one run, walked four and struck out two in 1 2/3 innings yesterday in his Phillies and Grapefruit League debuts against the Yankees at George M. Steinbrenner Field in Tampa. His fastball hit 93 or 94 mph once, depending on the radar gun, but otherwise sat in the 89-91 mph range. He showed some quality offspeed pitches, particularly his breaking ball, but couldn’t command his fastball.

It was his first time pitching in a game in two years.

“He was rusty and he wasn’t throwing a lot of strikes,” Ruben Amaro Jr. said this morning at Bright House Field. “But I think stuff-wise it was encouraging. He probably threw better with his stuff as far as his velocity and breaking ball since he’s been in camp. It’s a process. We’ve got to let him develop from there. But I was encouraged by his poise. I was encouraged that his stuff was better than it had been in his sides. And hopefully it will continue to progress in a positive way.”

Scouting reports before Gonzalez signed said he threw in the mid-90s.

So where is the heat?

“I think he’s still building it, just like all these other guys,” Amaro said. “It just takes time for guys to build arm strength. I’m not as concerned about the velocity as I am the command and making sure his stuff is consistent. It’ll build.”

Amaro said Gonzalez had some tightness in his arm earlier in the spring, but said Saturday it was not an issue.

“There have been no issues with him thus far,” Amaro said.

Pettibone Takes First Step Back

Bob McClure, Jonathan PettiboneThe Phillies had numerous problems last season, but one big problem toward the end was a lack of starting pitching depth.

It is not a serious concern yet, but with Cole Hamels and Jonathan Pettibone behind schedule because of shoulder issues and Ethan Martin getting his right shoulder examined today by doctors it could become one. At least the Phillies believe Hamels might miss just a start or two and Pettibone took a step forward today with his first bullpen session following a cortisone injection in into his right shoulder Feb. 17.

“Arm felt good,” Pettibone said afterward. “I think we’re back on track. That was like the first stepping stone and cleared that. Now it’s, ‘Game on.’”

Pettibone said his shoulder has felt fine since the injection.

“Once I got the cortisone, I was feeling smoother and kind of fresh,” he said. “In the week leading up, everything felt fine. So I’m staying positive.”

It is unlikely Pettibone could be ready to pitch by the beginning of the season, but he said he is hopeful he could be ready the first week of April.

Adams Hopeful, But Facing Unknowns

Mike AdamsMike Adams had reason to be concerned earlier this week when he felt some discomfort in his right shoulder.

He has had his share of injuries and surgeries the past couple years. He had thoracic outlet syndrome surgery in October 2012, right shoulder surgery in July 2013 and sports hernia surgery in October 2013. He has been rehabbing from those surgeries, and this morning at Bright House Field he threw his first bullpen session of the spring.

It was an important step in his recovery.

“It went good,” he said. “Real good. It was probably an 85-percent bullpen or so. Especially being the first one I wasn’t trying to let loose right off the bat. I wanted to make sure I got a good feel for throwing off the slope again and finding my arm slot. It felt good.”

But Adams said his arm felt “iffy” when he threw off flat ground Monday.

“Just uncomfortable,” he said. “It was the first time. That was the first time in this whole process that I’ve had any type of discomfort. Today felt back to normal. … When you’ve been through what I’ve been through as far as injuries and shoulder stuff and any kind of discomfort, it gets in the back of your head. I talked to (head athletic trainer Scott Sheridan) the other day and he’s like, ‘Hey, you’ve got every right to panic a little bit. What you’ve been through, it’s normal. It’s OK. You’re fine.’

“That’s probably going to be the biggest struggle for me. Before I came out here, I was nervous. I was worried. Everything’s an unknown. I don’t know how it’s going to go. It seems like every time I’m going out there, I’m hoping for the best. Just trying to stay positive. Every pitch could be the last pitch. Right now, I’m just kind of counting my blessings and going day by day. Every time I get through something, it’s just another checkpoint that I’ve hit.”

Adams, who makes $7 million this season, will throw his next bullpen session Sunday. He believes he could be pitch in a Grapefruit League sometime mid-March. He has said he could back in the Phillies bullpen sometime in April. But there are no guarantees following shoulder surgery.

“I don’t know velocity-wise where I’m going to be,” he said. “I don’t know if I’m going to be 84-85 or 89-90. That’s going to be the most important thing that I do, command the ball and keep the ball down and change speeds. I think it’s going to be very important this year that I use my changeup just to keep them off balance a little bit.

“The more velocity I have, the better. But I’m not going into this thinking, ‘You’re going to have no velocity.’ Whatever happens as far as that goes, it’s going to be a bonus.”

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