In a few short hours, the Grapefruit League season will open at Bright House Field as the Phillies play host to the Toronto Blue Jays. But the most important thing that will happen in Clearwater took place before 8:30 a.m., as the dew was still present on the sun-bleached grass at the Carpenter Complex.

Cole Hamels threw off the mound for the first time this spring. It's the first step of a process; he'll throw another 'pen session Saturday and eventually work his way into facing hitters and then pitching in games.

Hamels remains confident he'll be ready to join the Phillies in April.

He talked about his first 'pen session of the spring shortly after it was over:

Q: How did it go?

Hamels: It was good; better than expected, which is huge. It didn't feel as foreign getting off the mound (for the first time in) a long time. Everything felt good. Physically I've been feeling great, so it carried over. Now it's just getting the reps in and then working on location, working on pitches. I still have a really good feel for what I'm doing out there. Ultimately I feel like my strength has really picked up. Now it's just a matter of time in getting through the throwing program, the bullpens, the live batting practice and into games. I'm really looking forward to it.

Q: You said a couple weeks ago you're normally ready for the regular season after four spring starts. You had six last spring. Can you catch up then?

Hamels: Ultimately I hope so. I know with no setbacks - and I don't think I'm going to have any setbacks, I feel really good - where I am physically. It's just a matter of getting those reps, the game time. I feel like they're going to slot me in there and I'll be able to get that in. I feel like I'll recover like I normally do. I'm not worried at all with being ready for the season with having enough reps or having enough experience.

Q: That's the big question - how much time will you miss? You've said you'd be ready sometime in April. So think it's just missing a start or two?

 Hamels: Yeah, I do. I know when I first talk to you guys (2 weeks ago) obviously an injury is the biggest concern or the biggest worry. And I didn't have an injury. It's just a matter of building up. There's nothing to really worry about in any injury-related (matter). So it's just a matter of building up the muscles, getting the endurance with your legs on the mound and obviously in that competitive atmosphere. I've been there, done it before, and I feel really confident that I can get everything done and that I can get in the best shape that I can for the season.

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