Hamels improving, but out of opener
Lefty's elbow feeling good; either Myers or Blanton will start
CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Cole Hamels is out for Opening Night at Citizens Bank Park.
Brett Myers or Joe Blanton is in.
Phillies manager Charlie Manuel and pitching coach Rich Dubee said Monday afternoon at Bright House Field they have not decided who will pitch Sunday against the Braves, but that it would be Myers or Blanton.
Myers, who has started the last two Opening Days for the Phillies, is scheduled to pitch Tuesday night against the Blue Jays at Bright House Field. Blanton, who pitched the opener last year for the Athletics, is scheduled to pitch an exhibition game Friday night against the Rays at Citizens Bank Park. If the Phils pick Blanton, he would not pitch Friday.
Hamels had been tabbed to start Opening Night, but he missed time this month because of inflammation in his left elbow. He pitched four innings Monday and threw 65 pitches in a Minor League game at the Carpenter Complex. He allowed 10 hits, three runs and one walk and struck out five against Triple-A players from the Yankees.
Hamels said he needs one more start, but after the exhibition start Saturday against the Rays, he believes he will be ready to pitch April 10 against the Rockies in Denver.
"I think that's going to be a big start for me -- that exhibition game -- to really prepare me for the season," Hamels said. "I really do think that will really get me ready, going out there and competing at the big league level and starting off the season right."
Dubee said left-hander Jamie Moyer will pitch against the Braves on April 7, which is the second game of the season. That means Myers or Blanton, whichever one doesn't open the season, will pitch April 8 in the series finale against Atlanta.
But the good news Monday was that Hamels continued to progress after missing time earlier this month because of the elbow.
"Truly, from this whole week and getting ready for the game, I haven't felt it at all, which is great," Hamels said. "Even throwing right there I didn't feel any stiffness. No soreness. It's nice to know that now I can really focus on just pitching instead of every pitch going, 'OK, is this going to tweak it a little bit? Is this going to make it stiff?' I think I'm over that hump. Now it's just a matter of going out there and really trying to pitch."
Dubee said Hamels' fastball was clocked around 85-88 mph, which he said is up from his previous start. Hamels also threw more curveballs than changeups, which is something that doesn't happen during the season.
"I really want to be able to force the opponent to think that I do have three other pitches that I can throw at any time," Hamels said. "Just kind of get that consideration instead of just being a fastball, changeup pitcher."
If it makes Hamels a more effective pitcher, the Phillies are all for it. But right now they're just trying to get him on the mound April 10 against the Rockies.
Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.