CLEARWATER, Fla. -- This is not good news for the Phillies' rotation.
Phillies left-hander Cole Hamels has suffered a setback in his recovery from inflammation in his left shoulder, which makes his chances of pitching in April remote. Hamels said he feels no pain in his shoulder, but his arm is "fatigued out." No MRI or cortisone injections are scheduled, and Hamels hopes to throw off a mound again sometime within the next week.
"I know nothing has gone wrong," Hamels said about his shoulder. "Trying to get in the best possible shape that I can [get] in in sort of a rushed, competitive atmosphere, something's going to not want to push it a little more so it prevents the injury. Ultimately my body is telling me, 'Hey, slow it down a little bit and start over in a certain way so that you can prevent injury, but build up for the long haul.'"
The hope in Phillies camp is Hamels, who entered behind schedule after feeling discomfort in his shoulder in November, simply pushed himself too hard, too fast.
"I think any time you use and abuse your arm, you're going to get inflammation," Hamels said. "But no, I wouldn't say it's painful. I think ultimately when people think about the shoulder and not being able to throw a baseball, they think injuries, tears, the pain indication. It's not that. It's really tired, and it was kind of more difficult to go through the throwing motion, let alone try to throw something very competitive."
Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. insisted there are no structural concerns with Hamels' shoulder.
"The only thing that is a concern for me is we have to push him back a little bit," Amaro said. "The fact that he's throwing and not having any pain, this is part of the rehab. This is part of what happens. Sometimes it doesn't go in a straight line. We don't have any issues about health, as far as structure. We just have to be patient with his rehab, that's all.
"He's seen doctors. He doesn't have any structural damage."
In recent seasons, Roy Halladay, Ryan Howard, Chase Utley and Brad Lidge all publicly stated they were healthy in Spring Training only to struggle with their health during that season. So the fact Hamels seemed to be progressing quite nicely but now suddenly has to stop throwing is a concern.
Hamels could come back in a week, throw off a mound and continue from there without any further setbacks.
Or this could be a continual problem.
The Phillies already are concerned about their starting-pitching depth. Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez does not appear ready to pitch in the big leagues. Jonathan Pettibone is behind schedule because of right shoulder inflammation -- something that placed him on the disabled list at the end of last season. And Ethan Martin will not throw again for a few weeks because of a strained right shoulder capsule and triceps.
The Phillies might not need a fifth starter until April 14, which is 13 games into the season. But once they do, they might have to turn to others in camp, like Sean O'Sullivan, Jeff Manship and David Buchanan. B.J. Rosenberg has started in the past, but the Phillies prefer to use him in the bullpen.
"I would be hard-pressed to find guys who are throwing the ball better than some of our options," Amaro said about possibly finding some outside help to replace Hamels. "They've done a good job. It's early. But these things have a way of working themselves out. It's why we have Spring Training."
Hamels threw a bullpen session Saturday, and it seemed to go well. In fact, folks in Phillies camp seemed completely unconcerned with Hamels being ready to pitch by mid-April.
Hamels seemed confident, too.
"I think after the bullpen [session] and the way that you feel after throwing, I believe I threw 35 pitches," he said. "To my body, it felt like a thousand. It just wasn't healing up or getting that response back so I could go out and do it again.
"I didn't feel like it was safe to push it in that direction, because I think that would have led to injuries. So [I'm] just really trying to allow my body to catch up. I'm trying to build the biggest base of strength that I possibly can to throw. And in the short period that I have, I wasn't able to build it the best I could to face hitters."
Hamels chuckled last month when asked if he thinks there is a chance he will be pitching for the Phillies before May 1.
He said absolutely.
"I think that's the last thing I'm going to think about," Hamels said when asked if he could pitch in April. "Ultimately, I just want to get back out and get on the mound and see how I'm going to fare there."
Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com.