Cole Hamels throws off mound

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- It took two weeks into spring training, but Philadelphia Phillies pitcher Cole Hamels finally threw off a mound for the first time Wednesday.

Pitching coach Bob McClure told ESPN.com he doesn't expect Hamels to miss more than his first two starts of the season barring a setback. Asked how far behind schedule he believes Hamels is after an offseason bout with shoulder tendinitis, McClure said: "I would probably say 10 days maybe. Maybe. But he looks so healthy, he might not be 10 days. He might just be a week. Some guys just don't need as long in spring training. Some guys need longer.

"Healthwise, he doesn't look like he needs longer, but I don't want to rush him. To be conservative, I would say two weeks. To be not conservative, I'd say [he could be ready] five to seven days into the season."

McClure said Hamels threw with so little effort during his session that "he was actually sharper than I thought he was going to be, as far as command. But everything was full extension. You couldn't even tell he had the tendinitis."

Hamels threw 35 pitches off the mound Wednesday morning and said later that while he wasn't ready to mix in any curveballs until later in the spring, he threw his fastball, changeup and cutter without any issues.

"I was pain-free," the 30-year-old left-hander said. "Ultimately, I feel like I'm in a really good position to progress and get into the schedule, like everybody else did a couple of weeks ago."

Hamels said he expects to throw two more bullpen sessions over the next few days, then graduate to pitching to hitters during live batting practice sometime next week. Asked if he could see himself pitching in a Grapefruit League game in two weeks, he said, "Of course. Most definitely."

But Hamels said he wouldn't be able to measure exactly when he'd be ready to start the season until his fourth spring training start.

"Every time I've come into spring training, by my fourth start, I know where I'm at, what I need to work on and what my strength is," he said. "That really is the test, the fourth start. It's a different gear when you get up into the games that count in the season. That's when I know. The fourth start, I know I'm ready to hit that next gear."

Hamels raised eyebrows around the sport when he revealed just before spring training that he wouldn't be ready for Opening Day because he'd had to stop his offseason throwing program in November thanks to soreness in his shoulder. Although he said two weeks ago there was no reason for "alarm" by his health, he admitted Wednesday he was slightly alarmed himself at the time.

"Of course, any time you feel some sort of pain or strain in your throwing arm, you're going to wonder," he said. "I haven't had anything [wrong] in my arm in a significant amount of time. It makes you wonder, 'What did I do wrong?' You're trying to go over in your head, 'What caused this?' It's not fun when you have to throw with something nagging you."

So Hamels is relieved, he said, that he feels as good as he feels two weeks into the spring.

"You don't want to go into an offseason and have the sort of hiccups that happened," Hamels said. "It was something I really wasn't looking forward to because I try to prepare myself every offseason the best I can. It did come out of nowhere. With what the trainers have been able to do and how I've stayed on it, I am able to be in a better position probably than I thought I would be when this first came up.

"We hit it at the right time. We really got after it right away. I didn't let it linger. Some guys wait until spring training to let people know what happened in the offseason. I really didn't want that to happen. I want to pitch a whole season and postseason. ... [So] the timing was probably good timing, having it happen in November as opposed to letting it sit and fester."