DENVER - The Phillies will have played for 24 days when Cole Hamels throws his first pitch Wednesday at Dodger Stadium. That, in all likelihood, is the return date for Hamels. It will mark the franchise's longest period without its homegrown ace since 2007.
They crave his presence.
"It's pretty much right on schedule when you think about it," Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg said.
There is still some internal debate whether to start Hamels on Tuesday or Wednesday, but Sandberg believed Wednesday was best because that order places A.J. Burnett between Cliff Lee and Hamels, his two lefthanded starters.
Hamels was assigned a locker at Coors Field but was not with the team Friday. He pitched seven innings on 81 pitches Thursday at single-A Clearwater and allowed one run. He will throw a bullpen session this weekend in Colorado.
Biceps tendinitis in late November derailed Hamels' winter throwing program. He reported to spring training a few weeks behind the other arms, but expected to miss one or two starts. The timetable changed to March 1 when Hamels experienced more soreness once he accelerated his spring regimen.
That raised doubt about Hamels' chances of pitching in April. But after five starts - three for Clearwater and two in minor-league scrimmages - the Phillies feel confident about their ace's ability.
"It's still taken some time, but he's gone about it like a spring training with normal progression of pitches," Sandberg said. "But he's built up now to no restrictions with him. So it's like a shortened version of a spring training."
Part of the thinking for pitching Hamels on Wednesday is that his next two scheduled starts would come at Citizens Bank Park. (A Tuesday start would align Hamels for Sunday's road trip finale in Arizona, a venue he dislikes.) He would start the first game of a seven-game homestand April 29 vs. the New York Mets. His next two outings would come against Toronto and New York again.
Hamels is tentatively scheduled to oppose Zack Greinke at Dodger Stadium. He has not pitched there since 2009.
Sandberg noted Hamels' pristine control during his rehab outings - he struck out 12 and walked one with the Threshers - and said reports from team officials were strong.
"His command was good," Sandberg said. "He was throwing strikes and throwing all of his pitches in the zone for strikes. That's all good."
The Phillies and Braves will play a split doubleheader June 28 to make up last Tuesday's postponed game. Tickets from the rainout will be honored for the 7:35 p.m. nightcap. The first game will be played at 2:05 p.m. instead of the originally scheduled time of 3:05 p.m.
Fans can exchange tickets from the postponed game for a future 2014 regular-season game prior to June 28.
Cody Asche, 0 for his last 15 entering Friday, started after a two-game absence. "I just want him to relax and play the game and let his natural ability take over," Sandberg said. Asche extended his hitless streak to 16 at-bats before singling in the fifth for the Phillies' first hit. . . . Ryan Howard walked 10 times (all unintentional) in his first 62 plate appearances this season. It took him 212 plate appearances last season to reach 10 unintentional walks. . . . The Phillies and Braves played consecutive 1-0 games against each other on Wednesday and Thursday for the first time since their rivalry began in 1883. . . . Denver-area native Brad Lidge visited with some of his former teammates during batting practice.