Phillies' Cole Hamels: I wasn't ready to pitch

Posted: April 21, 2009

Early-season games played on chilly April nights count just as much as the high-stakes, high-intensity games the Phillies have played in the last few Septembers.

That's why Cole Hamels is so disappointed with the way he has begun the 2009 season.

"If it comes down to the end of the year and we lose the division by one game, I can easily raise my hand and say I [messed] up," Hamels said in an exclusive interview in the Phillies' clubhouse yesterday. "I didn't help the team in my first couple of games of the season."

Hamels, 25, said a busy January schedule - the result of the popularity he gained after leading the Phils to the World Series title - delayed his preparation for spring training. When he tried to expedite his training program during camp, he experienced soreness and inflammation in his left elbow, and that pushed him back even further.

Two weeks into the season, Hamels is still rounding into form, still building arm speed and strength, still looking for the crispness and pinpoint control of his pitches that he has usually found by now. In his first two starts, he has allowed 19 hits and 12 earned runs over 9 2/3 innings for an ERA of 11.17. The Phils have lost both of those games.

"I should be ready, and by not being ready I'm jeopardizing the team," Hamels said. "I think that's what I've done the last two starts because I pretty much didn't fulfill my end of the bargain and get ready the way I should have."

Hamels believes he made strides in his last start, an opinion seconded by manager Charlie Manuel and pitching coach Rich Dubee. The pitcher said he is completely healthy and expects to be more of a contributor in his next outing, scheduled for Thursday afternoon against Milwaukee at Citizens Bank Park.

TV appearances

"I feel like I am back," Hamels said. "I just have to show it in a game."

Hamels went 14-10 with a 3.09 ERA in 33 regular-season starts last season. In the postseason, he dazzled, going 4-0 with a 1.80 ERA in five starts. He was MVP of the National League Championship Series and the World Series. The postseason helped Hamels become a national sensation. He appeared on The Late Show with David Letterman and Ellen DeGeneres' show. He and his wife, Heidi, purchased a penthouse in Two Liberty Place. In February, he was pictured on the cover of Sports Illustrated with a headline that read "The Fabulous New Life of Cole Hamels." The accompanying article spoke of how he and his wife were trying to adopt a child from Malawi.

Hamels said that post-World Series TV appearances and personal family matters did not alter his usual January preparation because they came before the new year. He usually starts his throwing program in early January. That was delayed until mid-month, he said, because he made several trips from Clearwater, Fla., to Philadelphia for personal and team appearances. He said he attended an autograph signing at a local mall, another one in Philadelphia, and two more in Atlantic City. He also flew to Philadelphia for an appearance on a team-sponsored Comcast TV show and attended a banquet in New York.

January distractions

"I had distractions in January," Hamels said. "I had to fly to Philly every weekend to do something. I'd work out three days then I'd be off four days. Because of that, those three days of working out was pretty much like doing nothing. Normally, I'm working out all of January, but there were days I couldn't throw because I was in Philly doing appearances. I think this is the reason I'm behind."

Hamels said his appearance commitments came before he signed a three-year, $20.5 million contract in mid-January.

"The contract helps," he said. "Now I don't have to do that stuff. Now, it'll be baseball 24/7."

Hamels' admission to being distracted in January came three days after a camera crew from the E! network filmed the lefthander and his wife, a former Survivor contestant, having lunch in Center City on Friday. Later that night, Hamels struggled to protect a 7-1 lead in what turned out to be an 8-7 loss to San Diego. After that game, Hamels said he was "embarrassed."

Hamels said he was not interviewed on Friday, that the E! True Hollywood Stories segment was focused on his wife.

He said that during the season, he has no trouble balancing personal matters with baseball. It was just the off-season he had trouble with, and that won't happen again, Hamels said.

Contact staff writer Jim Salisbury at 215-854-4983 or jsalisbury@phillynews.com.

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