PHILADELPHIA -- Cole Hamels could return to the Phillies rotation next week, provided everything goes well with his scheduled Minor League rehab start on Thursday.
Hamels, building arm strength as he recovers from tendinitis in his left biceps, is expected to increase his workload to 90 pitches with Class A Advanced Clearwater. That would put the left-hander on track to start against the Dodgers in Los Angeles as early as April 22, and Phillies assistant general manager Scott Proefrock said Wednesday "that's a distinct possibility." Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg agreed, and said he was "optimistic" Hamels would make his season debut at Dodger Stadium.
While Hamels is close to being activated, right-hander Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez is getting close to pitching off a mound. Gonzalez is on the 60-day disabled list and has not pitched competitively in nearly two years. The Cuban originally agreed to a $48 million contract with the Phillies last July, but he ultimately signed a $12 million deal in August following concerns with his physical. Proefrock said the organization would not rush Gonzalez to the Major Leagues.
"I don't think that was ever our expectation of him after what happened with the health questions that led to the contract that we ended up signing him to," Proefrock said. "I think we want to be very careful with him and make sure he's comfortable and really assimilated into the organization and the culture before we put him in that type of pressure situation. I think we want to make sure he's 100 percent healthy, and we're going to go slow with him and hopefully get him on a rehab assignment when he's ready for that and see where he's able to help us."
In other injury news, Proefrock said right-handed reliever Ethan Martin has started to throw bullpen sessions and outfielder Darin Ruf has started baseball activities and should begin a hitting progression early next week.
Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. Austin Laymance is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @jalaymance. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.