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After Frisco start, Hamels closes in on return

Left-hander could pitch for Rangers as soon as Monday
MLB.com @Sullivan_Ranger

FRISCO, Texas -- Cole Hamels pushed his pitch-count up to 81, looking smooth and efficient in doing so during his second rehab assignment start for Double-A Frisco on Wednesday.

The Rangers will decide in the next few days if Hamels is ready to pitch on Monday against the Indians in Cleveland or needs another start in the Minor Leagues.

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FRISCO, Texas -- Cole Hamels pushed his pitch-count up to 81, looking smooth and efficient in doing so during his second rehab assignment start for Double-A Frisco on Wednesday.

The Rangers will decide in the next few days if Hamels is ready to pitch on Monday against the Indians in Cleveland or needs another start in the Minor Leagues.

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"Things went well," Hamels said. "Ultimately we'll see how I feel tomorrow and get back into the five-day routine. That will be the telltale sign of how I feel tomorrow and ultimately see where I am at."

Hamels is planning to join the Rangers for their three-game weekend series against the Yankees in New York. He'll throw a bullpen session on either Friday or Saturday, and after that, the Rangers will make a decision on whether Hamels is ready to come off the disabled list. He has been sidelined since April 26 with a strained right oblique muscle.

Manager Jeff Banister has left open the possibility of Hamels starting against the Indians on Monday.

"Ultimately, it's getting the strength back and building back up so I can go out and compete and not put pressure on the bullpen," Hamels said. "When you are only going three, four, possibly five innings because of the pitch count, it puts a lot of pressure on the bullpen. We'll just see where we are at and what kind of response I have from stretching out to 80 pitches."

Hamels went 5 2/3 innings against the Midland RockHounds, with his family watching from the Lazy River in right field and Dr Pepper Ballpark swarming with hundreds of children on day-care field trips. He allowed one run on two hits and two walks while striking out five. The only run was a first-inning home run by Yairo Munoz.

"It was good, being able to get into the sixth inning," Hamels said. "I know we were shooting for five with the pitch count we set. Just getting out there and being able to get into a rhythm, especially seeing how I feel with the long innings and warming up and keeping everything going smoothly. That was something we were doing really well."

Hamels ended up the winning pitcher in the RoughRiders' 11-2 victory, with the help of relievers Cody Palmquist and Brady Feigl. It was Hamels' first Minor League win since 2006, even if that wasn't the prime objective.

"There were a couple of good innings where I was able to throw a lot of good pitches to a lot of guys and set up guys," Hamels said. "That's ultimately where you need to be when you get up to the big leagues, knowing you can throw all four of your pitches."

T.R. Sullivan has covered the Rangers since 1989, and for MLB.com since 2006. Follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger and listen to his podcast.

Texas Rangers, Cole Hamels