"I want to play for a winner, and the Phillies want to win," Hamels said. "They have two great pitchers that are here. What better way to get mentored by the best of the best? You can't ask for anything more."
His relative innocence - "All I have to really worry about is just going out and playing" - was a stark contrast to four springs ago, when Hamels complained of a "low-blow" $100,000 raise from the Phillies.
"That will affect, down the line, certain things that come up," he said in 2008.
There was none of that bluster Monday. Now, Hamels is a father to two sons, owner of a World Series ring, and one of the best lefthanders in baseball. He'll make $15 million in 2012 and much more after that. Most Phillies fans would endorse a lucrative deal for Hamels, who posted a 2.79 ERA and finished fifth in National League Cy Young Award voting last season.
His 2011 was made even more remarkable Monday when Hamels admitted to pitching the entire season with a bone chip the size of a Tic Tac in his left elbow. Hamels also had surgery for a sports hernia during the offseason and estimated his throwing program was delayed four weeks. But pitching coach Rich Dubee said Hamels' arm strength mirrors that of last spring.
Hamels, who has endured his share of minor injuries, said he doesn't feel a need to sign this spring to prevent risking millions if he suffers a setback in 2012.
"I've been injured a few times," Hamels said. "I really haven't had the serious surgeries. I know how to overcome them. I know how to rehab. I know how to get through them. They're not going to mentally take me down. I know how to come back and be just as strong or as capable as I always was."
Hamels and his agent, John Boggs, will ask for significant compensation. Negotiations this winter were limited to the one-year deal, but Boggs is scheduled to meet with Ruben Amaro Jr. in Clearwater some time this spring. The Phillies have guaranteed $20 million annually to Roy Halladay and $24 million to Cliff Lee. Hamels will turn 29 in December. Halladay was 34 and Lee was 32 in the first seasons of their current contracts.
When Hamels was asked if he'd take a discount to stay in Philadelphia, he eluded the question. (The Phillies do have a possible $5 billion infusion with a new TV deal beginning in 2016.) But later, Hamels indicated money would take a backseat to a chance at winning.
"Ultimately I play this game because I love to do it and I want to be the best at it," Hamels said. "If you're able to do that, the money obviously comes. But I'm a pretty conservative guy, and money's not the ultimate answer to anything. It's really about going out and enjoying where you are, your teammates, and the city, and I seem to really enjoy Philadelphia."
Whatever the case, talk will now happen only behind the scenes, mostly between Amaro and Boggs. Hamels did not directly answer most questions Monday, but the tone was overwhelmingly in favor of a long-term commitment to the Phillies.
Contact staff writer Matt Gelb at email@example.com or @magelb on Twitter.