If he can't go, Hamels backs Myers

Despite his pitching coach saying it's a long shot that he'll be able to pitch Opening Day against the Braves, Philadelphia Phillies ace Cole Hamels said Wednesday that pitching in the opener remains his goal.

"That's still my focus, to be ready for Opening Day," Hamels told reporters in Florida. "I certainly want to pitch Opening Day."

Hamels went to Philadelphia on Monday to get checked out after he reported feeling stiffness and tightness in his pitching elbow. An examination revealed his pitching elbow had no structural damage, only inflammation.

However, Hamels said he will defer to his team's wishes and his ultimate goal is to make 34 starts in the 2009 season.

If he can't pitch the opener, Hamels was adamant about who should replace him.

"Brett Myers, no doubt," he said.

Hamels, who had a cortisone shot in his left elbow Tuesday, said it normally takes five to six days before he can throw off a mound after getting the shot. He doesn't envision being able to throw off a mound until early next week.

The Phillies ace said that finding out there was no structural damage in his elbow was reassuring.

"I can pitch with it, it wouldn't kill me. Just mentally you don't want to pitch thinking you have a sore elbow," Hamels said.

He said he's pitched with similar discomfort in the past.

Philadelphia pitching coach Rich Dubee said Tuesday he believed Hamels probably won't be ready to pitch in the opener.

"I don't know that it's out of the question, but I think it would be a long shot," Dubee said Tuesday, "just because we've got to get him up and running again. We've got to stretch him out ... he's only up to about 52 or 54 pitches. We like our guys if they're gonna pitch [at the start of the regular season] to be up to 100 pitches [by the end of camp].

"But I don't know. This guy has always risen to the occasion."

Information from ESPN.com's Jayson Stark was used in this report.