CLEARWATER, Fla. — There was no hint of worry in Cole Hamels' voice, even as he described the pain in his prized left shoulder that forced him to stop throwing in December and put him behind schedule for spring training. The $144 million pitcher is confident he can pitch in April, but he will not be on the mound to start the season.

"Don't feel alarmed," Hamels said. "I feel healthy now. It's trying to get the strength and stamina to do that comfortably and not injure myself. I'm glad we were able to find it earlier. I will progress during spring training. Things will be good."

This was an inauspicious start to spring training for these Phillies, a team that requires pristine health to compete. Hamels was diagnosed with biceps tendinitis shortly before Thanksgiving. He met with Phillies doctors, who deemed an MRI was unnecessary. Hamels is a month behind schedule but believes he can throw off a mound in 10 days.

The Phillies and Hamels are convinced this injury is far from serious. Hamels expects to be ready "not too far behind" opening day. That, of course, is presuming everything goes according to plan this spring.

"I see myself pitching in April," Hamels said.

Hamels is the model of consistency. He has pitched at least 180 innings in seven straight seasons — all before he turned 30 in December. Just five pitchers since 1990 have thrown more such seasons before the age of 30.

The lefthander said he is throwing on flat ground and did so Wednesday morning when Phillies pitchers and catchers reported to camp.

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