DUNEDIN, Fla. -- Jose Contreras, who hasn't pitched in a Major League game since last June, made his spring debut on Sunday. It was far briefer than he or the Phillies had hoped.
The 40-year-old Contreras, who began last season as the Phillies' closer and was 5-for-5 in save opportunities before he injured his arm and had to undergo elbow surgery, lasted just one-third of an inning and was ripped for four runs on four hits, leaving him with an ERA of 108.00.
But that didn't dampen Contreras' optimism about the season ahead.
"The one thing I'm concentrating on is location," he said. "I feel good. No pain. That's the most important thing. The slider was a little bit flat, high. The fastball was high, too. But I feel good. I feel strong.
"A couple more days, I'll pitch again. It's not a problem. I'm thinking two more days."
"He's just got to get some work in," said manager Charlie Manuel. "Today was a big step for him."
Contreras had pitched in two Minor League games this spring and declared after his second outing that he would be ready for Opening Day. He said he felt even better on Sunday.
"A lot better, much more strong," the pitcher said.
Sunday's performance aside, the presence of Contreras in the bullpen would make a huge difference, according to starter Cole Hamels.
"He's a great pitcher. We definitely missed him last year," Hamels said. "He's a big-time guy who knows how to get the job done. He definitely has some nasty stuff."
Hamels pleased despite change in plans
DUNEDIN, Fla. -- Cole Hamels definitely had a plan when he took the mound on Sunday. Unfortunately for the Phillies' left-hander, the Blue Jays quickly figured out exactly what he wanted to do.
"I was trying to work inside, to the inner half of the plate to right-handers," explained Hamels, who exited after 3 1/3 innings, having allowed five runs [four earned] on eight hits in the Phillies' 10-2 loss to the Blue Jays.
"They realized that, and they were able to pick the pitches they wanted to swing at, and take the pitches they wanted to let go."
But Hamels understands that's all part of Spring Training.
"I was very happy with what I was able to do today," said Hamels, who allowed just two runs in 10 2/3 innings, while striking out seven and walking none in his three previous spring starts. "I thought I threw a lot of really good pitches."
On Sunday, Hamels didn't strike out or walk anyone.
"He was all right," said Phillies manager Charlie Manuel. "He was working on his change and his cutter. He's fine. He'll be ready."
Hamels refused to criticize the judgement of plate umpire Eric Cooper on several close pitches.
"It's Spring Training for everyone," the pitcher said. "You're never going to see eye-to-eye with the umpire on the strike zone."
In spite of the current uncertainty at several key positions in the Phillies' lineup, Hamels insisted he isn't worried about who will be in the Opening Day lineup.
"All I have to worry about is going out there to pitch," he said.
Hamels was 14-9 with a career-best 2.79 ERA for the Phillies last season and was named to the All-Star team for the second time. It marked the fifth season in a row that he posted double-digit wins, the longest such streak by a Phillies pitcher since Steve Carlton did it 13 years in row from 1972-84.
Thome getting more work at first base
DUNEDIN, Fla. -- Jim Thome, who has played just four big league games at first since 2005, was at first again on Sunday in a Minor League game, his second in a row.
With Ryan Howard apparently sidelined until mid-May, at best, it is possible the 41-year-old Thome may see more time at first early in the season than anyone expected when he signed with the Phillies last November. John Mayberry Jr., Ty Wigginton, and Laynce Nix, who hasn't played since Monday after suffering a rib cage injury in a collision at the plate, are also in the mix.
Thome played five innings with the Class A Phillies on Sunday after playing four innings at first base on Saturday.
Asked afterward how he felt, Thome told a reporter: "Two days in a row, I could definitely feel it. That's all good. I wanted to do that."
"It'll be interesting to see how I feel [Monday]," Thome added. "But that's part of Spring Training. We wanted to progress and see where we're at. Good. I'm starting to get a little more comfortable every day out there. That's important, too. It's coming along good."
David Herndon, another leading candidate for the Phillies' unsettled bullpen, worked 1 2/3 innings, allowing one run on two hits in Sunday's 10-2 loss to the Blue Jays. His ERA in five outings this spring is 2.57.
"I'm going to go out there and pitch the best I can," Herndon said. "They're going to make the decision."
"I have no idea what our bullpen is going to be," admitted manager Charlie Manuel. "I'm not uncertain about it. That's what we've got."
Outfielder Domonic Brown was absent from the lineup again Sunday, although he did take 25-30 swings in the batting cage. Brown said the medical staff believes his stiff neck may be caused by a virus that was exacerbated by his sleeping on the team bus during Tuesday's road trip to Kissimmee.
Jim Hawkins is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.