Phillies Notebook: Could Hamels handle pressure of World Series Game 7?

Hamels
Hamels
Posted: November 02, 2009

Cole Hamels' performance in Game 3 of the World Series, when he cruised through three innings and then allowed five earned runs in the fourth and fifth, had two ramifications:

First, it called into question his ability to start a potential Game 7.

Second, and much more important, it called into question whether there will even be a Game 7.

Yesterday, Phillies manager Charlie Manuel brushed off questions about Hamels' future this postseason.

But Manuel did acknowledge that he was "surprised" by a comment his 25-year-old lefthander made after his fourth straight disappointing performance.

After Hamels told reporters that he hoped his manager and teammates would have enough faith in him to start him in a decisive Game 7, he was asked how he would reflect on his disappointing season if Game 5 was his last appearance.

"I can't wait for it to end," he said. "It's been mentally draining. At year's end, you just can't wait for a fresh start."

Manuel said he was surprised by Hamels' choice of words, but also said he wasn't sure of the exact context of the comments.

"You know what, I was totally surprised at what he said," Manuel said. "But at the same time, I understand his frustration and everything."

At the start of the postseason Hamels said he looked at October as a fresh start, as an opportunity to erase the frustration of a regular season in which he went 10-11 with a 4.32 earned run average. Instead, his funk has carried over. Last postseason, he pitched at least six innings in all five of his starts, and at least seven innings in four of them. This postseason, he has failed to complete six innings in any of his four starts. Last postseason, he went 4-0 and allowed just seven runs in 35 innings. This postseason, he is 1-2 and has allowed 16 earned runs in 19 innings.

Manuel pointed out the massive expectations Hamels faced after his 2008 postseason performance and a regular season in which he posted a career-low 3.09 ERA in a career-high 227 1/3 innings.

"This guy's been a good pitcher ever since he came up," Manuel said. "If you stop and think about it, ever since he came into the big leagues, he's been a top-rated pitcher. That's all people are talking about, how good he was. This year has been tough on him. He's had what we call, he's kind of had a weird year. I've said that over and over. You guys have heard me say that. What he's goin' through right now, it's goin' to take experience and everything, because he's going through the part where he's failed."

Former Phillies manager and current front-office member Dallas Green has seen plenty of young pitchers endure the growing pains that are currently facing Hamels.

"It goes back to the learning process of how to be successful and then how to face adversity and come through it," Green said. "That's what growth in baseball is all about. I mean, what the hell, all of us can ride the wave, but he's learning now that it's not as easy as the first year made it out to be."

But the Phillies are still alive in the World Series, and they might need Hamels to pitch again. He would be due to pitch in Game 7 on normal rest.

The Phillies don't have another clear option. Rookie lefthander J.A. Happ went 10-4 with a 2.99 ERA as a starter during the regular season, but hasn't thrown more than 21 pitches in an outing since Oct. 11.

Righthander Joe Blanton, who started last night, would be available to pitch on 3 days' rest. Lefthander Cliff Lee, who is scheduled to start tonight, could contribute in some capacity on short rest.

But whether Hamels' comments are an indication that he is mentally spent, or if they were simply the poorly chosen words of a struggling young pitcher, there is a chance he will be needed again.

"I haven't even thought about Game 7," Manuel said. "I'm thinkin' about tonight. I was surprised with what he said, but at the same time, I was trying to figure out exactly what he meant by it."

Park sick

Charlie Manuel curiously avoided using veteran righthander Chan Ho Park in Game 3, despite a situation that seemed tailor-made for his talents as a multiple-innings reliever.

Yesterday, Manuel explained why: Park was sick, one of several Phillies who have battled the flu over the past few days. Manuel said the team's training staff informed him that Park was under the weather just before the game. Thus, he decided to rely on J.A. Happ and righthander Chad Durbin, who combined to allow two runs in 2 2/3 innings.

Park came in to pitch in the seventh inning last night.

Phillers

Phillies Hall of Famer Steve Carlton threw out the ceremonial first pitch. Veteran lefty Jamie Moyer, currently rehabbing from surgery on his groin and lower ab, served as his catcher . . . Heading into last night's game, lefty sluggers Chase Utley, Raul Ibanez and Ryan Howard had combined to go 6-for-36 with 18 strikeouts in the World Series. Carlos Ruiz (3-for-9) and Jayson Werth (4-for-10) were the only Phillies regulars hitting above .250.

For more Phillies coverage and opinion, read David Murphy's blog, High Cheese, at http://go.philly.com/highcheese.

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