After knocking down a report from earlier this month that he had to be backed off his offseason throwing program because of shoulder soreness, Cole Hamels addressed the on-the-field hurdle he and the Phils will have to face in 2013.

For the first time since he was a young, unproven major leaguer, Hamels and the Phils aren't the favorites in the National League East.

Your thoughts, Cole?

"Honestly… We didn't win," Hamels said before the annual Philadelphia Sportswriters Banquet in Cherry Hill on Monday night. "The other teams were ahead of us. We have a lot to improve on and we have a lot that we have to do to get back to being a winning team. And that's up to the players. Ultimately we have to stay healthy and play the game we know we're capable of doing. We have (other) teams now that have the confidence, that have the accolades to show they did their job and they did it well. So we have to come in there and just try to play the game the right way."

And some can say that since the season ended, both of those teams, Washington and Atlanta, did more to improve than the Phillies this winter.

"We just have a lot to prove," Hamels said. "I think ultimately we can't take the back seat and hope that we can coast through. We really have to go after it from the very beginning and not really hope we can play catch up. These teams now, they're a lot better, the players are a lot better in the league, and they're not going to allow you to really catch up. They're not going to fail. That's ultimately where… sometimes pressure gets to young guys and they're not young anymore. They have talent. So they can carry themselves better. So we just have to fight from the very beginning to the end."

Earlier this month, a reported that Hamels had been experiencing shoulder soreness earlier this offseason and that he had to back off his routine. But Hamels answered those questions Monday as if it was news to him.

Hamels is headed to Clearwater next week and has already thrown three bullpen sessions in preparation. His fourth is tomorrow morning.

"I feel good," Hamels said, "and I'm ready to go."