Cole Hamels on track to throw live batting practice next week

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Not much has gone right for the Phillies in the early going. They are 1-3 in the Grapefruit League thus far, having been disappointed several times already by Cuban pitcher Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez. Roberto Hernandez wasn’t sharp in his first outing. Jonathan Pettibone has had shoulder problems again. The cherry on top of the sundae, though, was when they learned that Cole Hamels would not be ready for Opening Day due to tendinitis in his right shoulder.

Thankfully, the Phillies have received a dose of good news about Hamels. He is progressing well and may only miss one or two starts at the beginning of the regular season. He is on track to throw live batting practice next week. Via MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki:

“Everything felt really good,” he said at Bright House Field. “My pitches are really coming along. I’m really able to execute down in the zone. I know that’s something Bob [McClure, pitching coach] preaches to everybody. I know I’m pretty good at doing that, so to get into my second bullpen and execute down in the zone, correct pitches within a pitch, having the control, it feels great.”

The Phillies are thin on pitching depth as is, so a healthy and productive Hamels is tantamount to the Phillies remaining at least somewhat competitive throughout the 2014 season. The left-hander finished the past season with a 3.60 ERA in 220 innings, ending a stretch of three consecutive seasons between 2010-12 where he finished with an ERA of 3.06 or lower.

Bryce Harper played some third base in an intrasquad game

Bryce Harper third base
Andy Lewis/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images
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Phillies star outfielder Bryce Harper played some third base during Monday’s intrasquad game at Citizens Bank Park, Jim Salisbury of NBC Sports Philadelphia reports. Harper had been pestering manager Joe Girardi for the opportunity and the skipper finally gave in.

Girardi told Harper, “No diving. And make sure your arm is loose.” Harper had the opportunity to field one ball, a grounder to his left and he made the play perfectly.

Why put Harper at third base? Girardi said, “I think it’s important the guys have fun. I saw him a week ago taking ground balls there and I was impressed. His hands worked well out front and he threw the ball across the field well. I told him, ‘You look good there.'”

Despite the solid showing, don’t expect Harper to show up at third base in a meaningful game anytime soon. That being said, the Phillies’ second and third base situations are still not cemented. Jean Segura will likely open the season at the hot corner with Scott Kingery at second, but things could change between now and Opening Day in 10 days.

Harper, 27, is coming off a solid first season with the Phillies. He hit .260/.372/.510 with 36 doubles, 35 home runs, 114 RBI, 98 runs scored, and 15 stolen bases across 682 plate appearances. Per FanGraphs, Harper’s 4.6 Wins Above Replacement ranked 16th in the National League. For some people, those numbers weren’t nearly good enough, so the expectations remain high as Harper enters year two of his 13-year, $330 million contract.