Not to mention that the whole thing had the whiff of veracity about it. After all, including the postseason, Hamels pitched a total of 262 1/3 innings, a whopping 38 percent increase from what had previously been his most strenuous workload. It would be natural to worry, at least a little, about how he will respond physically.
Inquiring minds want to know. So the Daily News posted up behind the backstop of Robin Roberts Field at the Carpenter Complex yesterday afternoon to observe Hamels pitching against a group of Phillies minor leaguers managed by Class A Clearwater manager Ernie Whitt against a squad managed by Double A Reading manager Steve Roadcap.
Are you sitting down?
Yes! Hamels is not throwing consistently at 91 to 92 the way he did while establishing himself as the Phillies' staff ace last season. But . . .
No! There is no evidence that anybody involved is concerned, not even a little bit.
One of the surest signs that there really are no silent alarms are going off in the executive bunker at Bright House Field is that there was no battalion of
front-office types who tore themselves away from the real game against the Cardinals to watch Hamels. If there had been even an iota of worry, the big cigars would have been out in force.
He threw 54 pitches over four innings. He allowed two runs on four hits, didn't walk a batter and struck out three.
The Phillies declined to divulge exactly how hard he was throwing. But Hamels readily conceded his velocity isn't where it needs to be. He also said that frankly, Scarlett (and anybody else who cares), he doesn't give a damn.
"Every year it [velocity] does the same thing," he pointed out. "I think to hit your spots is a little more important. It will just come from the strength of being out there. I think it takes that extra adrenaline and extra motivation of knowing that something does count to really get it there. But if you're able to hit your spots, by the time you want to ramp it up you know you're going to be somewhere in the area instead of all over the place."
The reality is that there really is a double standard in spring training. Some guys, those fighting for spots, have to perform well. Like Chan Ho Park, who had another impressive outing against the Cardinals yesterday in his bid to become the fifth starter.
Hamels has earned the right to progress at his own pace. He has established a track record of being ready when he needs to be. Park is new to the organization, and competing with J.A. Happ, Kyle Kendrick and Carlos Carrasco for a spot. That's just the way it is.
In 2007, Hamels had a 6.10 Grapefruit League earned run average.
In his first start of the regular season, against the Braves, he pitched seven shutout innings, scattering four hits.
Last season his spring ERA was 6.33.
In his first start after the games started to count, he went eight innings and allowed one run on five hits against the Nationals.
"Even in 2007, in spring training, people were saying, 'What's wrong? What's the deal?' " noted Chris Coste, Hamels' catcher yesterday. "If we hadn't seen this before it might be alarming. But as much as you'd like to see all your pitchers at 100 percent when spring training starts, he's proven that he'll be fine when the regular season opens.
"At this point of spring training, he's not the World Series MVP Cole Hamels yet. But there's no reason to worry because he's been doing this for years."
Pitching coach Rich Dubee even brought it up at the first catchers' meeting in February, warning the receivers that Hamels probably wouldn't be throwing very hard in the early going and that they shouldn't be concerned.
They aren't. And, apparently, nobody else is, either. *
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