CLEARWATER, Fla. -- This is not the news Phillies fans wanted to hear before Spring Training opens Thursday.
Cole Hamels revealed Wednesday morning at Bright House Field that he will open the season on the disabled list because of discomfort in his left shoulder. He later called the issue biceps tendinitis, but he insisted he is not worried, he is pain-free and he will be pitching for Philadelphia sometime in April.
"Oh, yeah, yeah," Hamels said, when asked if he expects to pitch in a regular-season game before May 1. "I see myself pitching in April. It's not any pain or discomfort. It's just the building up of muscles. When you start, you can't run a marathon right off the bat. You have to build up to it.
"Not too far behind [Opening Day] I'll be ready."
The Phillies hope to have cushioned the blow Wednesday, when a source said they agreed to a one-year contract with A.J. Burnett. But losing Hamels for any period of time, especially when he is describing shoulder discomfort, is cause for concern. The Phils enter camp needing several things to go perfectly to return to the postseason for the first time since 2011.
Losing Hamels because of an arm issue is not the way they wanted to start.
"Right now, I'm just kind of in the middle stages of my throwing program, which doesn't allow me to throw bullpens at the moment," Hamels said. "Don't feel alarmed. I feel healthy now. It's just trying to get the strength and the stamina to be able to do that comfortably and not injure myself. But other than that, I'm glad we were able to find it earlier. Things look good. I will progress during Spring Training into the start of the season."
Hamels said he started to feel the discomfort in his shoulder around Thanksgiving. He said that after meeting with Phillies physician Michael Ciccotti and head athletic trainer Scott Sheridan, they decided he should push back his throwing program one month.
Hamels typically begins his program on Dec. 1. He started throwing on Jan. 1. He did not have an MRI.
"All of the tests they did and my responses were 100 percent right to that area and to their diagnosis, and I felt really comfortable with what he diagnosed and what I thought, because it's gone away," said Hamels, when asked why he did not ask for an MRI. "Ultimately, that's what it is. So as I throw, I'm pain-free and I feel great with my mechanics. It's just I'm not able to throw 70 to 80 throws at a certain distance. I tire out too fast."
Hamels said he is eight to 10 days from throwing his first bullpen session.
"Ultimately, it's the bullpens, it's a certain amount of bullpens," said Hamels, when asked how much work in Florida he needs to get ready for the season. "I like to get up to 55 to 60 pitches in a bullpen session. And I'd like to be able to do that three or four times before the season starts. And normally that always falls around the range of games three or four. By the fourth game, leading into the fifth, I'm ready. So we throw five or six games [here]. If I can get to a fourth game, I'm game-ready, I'm good to go."
Hamels turned 30 in December, and he has thrown more than 200 innings in each of the previous six seasons, including the postseason. That is a lot of mileage, so he needs to be careful. While Hamels wants to get back quickly, he also knows he should not push himself.
"I did see Roy [Halladay] over the holidays, so I was able to kind of talk to him and hang out," Hamels said. "He told me pretty much the same thing: 'Don't push it into Spring Training, because Spring Training is where you can really create some really bad tendencies in your mechanics. You can create some bad flaws right there if you don't have the right strength, which can lead into some more serious injuries.' Being able to have that advice was great from the type of player he was."
If Hamels returns, Burnett lives up to his contract and Cliff Lee does what he typically does, the Phillies should have one of the more formidable rotation trios in baseball. Kyle Kendrick should be the No. 4, with Roberto Hernandez, Miguel Gonzalez and Jonathan Pettibone in a fight to be the No. 5.
Regardless, the Phils have plenty to prove following 89 losses in 2013. Hamels knows it.
"I know in 2007 and 2008, we weren't favored to win," he said. "We had to prove to each other and everyone else that we had the capability to go out and win. It's a good situation to be in -- to have to fight your way back to the top. It's something that we'll cherish more when we are able to do it."
Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com.