SAN FRANCISCO - Cole Hamels is in line to make only two more starts before baseball's July 31 trade deadline.
The Phillies ace will make his first post-all-star break start Sunday afternoon against the Miami Marlins at Citizens Bank Park. If he pitches on normal rest and the team doesn't use the July 23 off-day to skip another pitcher's turn, Hamels would also start July 25 at Wrigley Field and then the night of July 31 at Citizens Bank Park.
Whether he makes that July 31 start, of course, is the burning question. Hamels has long been baseball's human trade rumor ahead of a crucial deadline for the rebuilding Phillies, on pace for a franchise-record tying 111 losses after a dismal 29-62 first half.
When he takes the mound Sunday, Hamels will be coming off the worst start of his career. The 31-year-old lefthander on Friday was tagged by the San Francisco Giants for nine earned runs and 12 hits and lasted only 31/3 innings. He didn't display his normal feel for his curveball or his patented change-up, which he threw 28 times but on which he induced only three whiffs.
As interim manager Pete Mackanin said that night, Hamels "just wasn't himself" against the Giants. The pitcher entered the break with a 3.63 ERA - Friday's outing increased it by .61 - and 123 strikeouts over 18 starts spanning 1162/3 innings.
Hamels wanted to throw a bullpen session before his first post-break start, Mackanin said, which is why he is starting Sunday instead of Friday. Adam Morgan will get the nod Friday and Chad Billingsley will pitch Saturday.
Chase Utley continues to make progress from the ankle injury that landed him on the disabled list June 24. The second baseman, 36, took ground balls Friday and also has resumed running.
"It felt great," he said Sunday at AT&T Park. "Ankle's definitely in a better place than it was two weeks ago or three weeks ago."
Utley will stay during the all-star break in San Francisco, where he makes his offseason home. He will resume hitting after the Phillies begin their second half on Friday.
"There's no exact date on it," he said. "But it's a good sign that I'm able to run and take ground balls and feel very comfortable doing it."
Utley was hitting a major-league-worst .179 over 218 at-bats when he was placed on the DL. It remains to be seen how much he will play upon his return given that Cesar Hernandez has seized control as the team's second baseman.
Jerome Williams (hamstring) was tagged Sunday with four runs and six hits over four innings of a rehab start with single-A Lakewood. . . . On Friday, the Phillies will face Marlins righthander Jose Fernandez, who recently returned after Tommy John surgery.
- Jake Kaplan