Nelson on Hamels being poised for rotation return

DENVER -- Cole Hamels will rejoin the Phillies rotation next week in Los Angeles.

Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg said Friday afternoon at Coors Field that Hamels is most likely to start Wednesday against the Dodgers at Dodger Stadium because it would allow the Phillies to split up left-handers Cliff Lee and Hamels with right-hander A.J. Burnett.

Lee is scheduled to pitch Monday. Burnett is scheduled to pitch Tuesday.

Hamels, who opened the season on the disabled list because of inflammation in his left shoulder, allowed one run in seven innings Thursday in his final rehab start with Class A Advanced Clearwater. He will join the team this weekend at Coors Field.

"Good reports on him," Sandberg said. "Command was good. He was throwing strikes and throwing all of his pitches in the zone for strikes. That's all good."

Hamels opened Spring Training behind schedule after feeling shoulder discomfort in November. He expected to miss only a start or two until he suffered a setback March 1. At the time the Phillies said they hoped Hamels could rejoin the rotation sometime before May 1.

Technically, he came back a little earlier than expected.

It could be a big boost for a struggling pitching staff. Lee allowed one run and struck out 13 in a complete-game loss Wednesday against the Braves. Burnett threw seven scoreless innings Thursday in a victory over the Braves. The Phillies opened Spring Training with high expectations for the top of their rotation. If Lee, Burnett and Hamels pitch like they have pitched in the past, the Phillies should have a formidable rotation.

"I think those guys set a tone of what could be to come with adding Hamels to the rotation," Sandberg said.

Hamels will make his home debut at Citizens Bank Park against the Mets on April 29.

Howard working on improving walk rate

ATL@PHI: Howard keeps rally going with pinch-hit walk

DENVER -- Ryan Howard took a big pinch-hit walk in the ninth inning Thursday against the Braves at Citizens Bank Park.

It led to Ben Revere's game-winning single up the middle to help the Phillies avoid a sweep at home before they opened a 10-game road trip Friday at Coors Field. It was Howard's 10th walk of the season, which leads the team.

"That's been stressed to the team from day one," Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg said. "Making the pitchers throw strikes and taking the walks if they're given. And with a lineup that has balance there's a guy behind them that's a good hitter. That's been a message all the way along. And I think he's been more selective overall. He's taken walks. And sooner or later if he continues to do that the pitchers will see they have to come at him. With his swing, I think his swing path is in the strike zone where he can hit strikes, lefties or righties. I think he's making some good progress there and having quality at-bats."

Howard, who is hitting .231 with three home runs and seven RBIs, is averaging a walk every 6.20 plate appearances this season, which is the second-best rate of his career. He averaged a walk every 6.06 plate appearances since 2007, but had averaged a walk only every 10.29 plate appearances from 2010-13.

"Yesterday that at-bat was huge," Sandberg said. "The guy didn't throw him many strikes so he didn't go up there just swinging away and going fishing out of the zone. He took the walk there and got Ben up there who was having a hot day. He's the one that drove in the winning run. That was big. That's what we're talking about."

Phils finally get starting lineup on field together

PHI@TEX: Asche hits an RBI infield single

DENVER -- The Phillies played their projected everyday lineup Friday at Coors Field for just the third time this season.

It hasn't been easy to get everybody on the field at the same time. Through the season's first 15 games, Chase Utley missed a couple games with the flu, Jimmy Rollins missed a couple games for the birth of his second daughter, Ben Revere sat four consecutive games while nursing sore ribs and Ryne Sandberg played the hot hand in center fielder Tony Gwynn Jr.

Struggling third baseman Cody Asche also has had a few days off, including the previous two games. Asche entered Friday hitting .184 (7-for-38) with one home run and three RBIs.

"I've been trying different guys over there at third," Sandberg said. "Just want [Asche] to relax and play the game and let his natural ability take over. He has had some slow starts throughout his career at all levels. That's been a trend with him, but from what I've seen it's been the 50 at-bat range. He's a hard worker and he gets after it and he's a grinder."