Inside the Phillies: Cole Hamels shrugs off report about sore shoulder

"I've been healthy," says lefthander Cole Hamels.
"I've been healthy," says lefthander Cole Hamels. (YONG KIM / Staff)
Posted: January 29, 2013

The bad news about Cole Hamels' left shoulder was news to him.

"I don't even know what it was about," the Phillies' pitcher said Monday night in his first interview since a report surfaced earlier this month that he experienced some shoulder discomfort during his offseason throwing program.

Hamels, the best pitcher last season in a rotation that still has three legitimate aces, wasn't just playing dumb. He insisted there was no shoulder soreness, and that's great news for a team that will likely live or die in 2013 on the arms of Hamels, Roy Halladay, and Cliff Lee.

"I've been healthy," Hamels said before he and his wife, Heidi, received the Humanitarian Award from the Philadelphia Sports Writers Association at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Cherry Hill. "That's the last thing on my list."

Pressed on the issue, the former World Series MVP became slightly agitated.

"Since these are the questions that you guys are asking, I haven't really thought about anything of that sort because I haven't even picked up a paper," Hamels said. "That's the honest truth. I wasn't the one who started it. I know I feel good and I'm ready to go. That's all I can really answer because that's where it is. It's the same program, and I'm looking forward to spring training and finally getting out of the cold."

Hamels said that he had some soreness in his shoulder near the end of last season.

"I did, but I think that is kind of the only case," he said. "It's just the typical wear and tear that you get, but that was during the season. Once the season ended, it was kind of nice the season ended and it felt good. I just kind of got back on the same program I've been on and everything has been working out well."

Whatever Hamels felt in his left shoulder last September, it did not impact his ability to remain an elite pitcher. He was 3-0 with a 3.32 ERA in six starts that month and struck out 44 batters in 38 innings. He finished with a career-high 17 wins and a 3.05 ERA.

The Phillies will need that kind of performance from Hamels and something similar from Halladay and Lee in 2013 if they hope to reclaim the title of National League East champions. The Phillies were 21-10 in Hamels' starts last season, but only 26-29 when Lee and Halladay pitched.

When the Phillies won a franchise-record 102 regular-season games in 2011, they were a combined 64-31 in the games started by the trio of Hamels, Halladay, and Lee. If those numbers can be duplicated, the Phillies will return to the playoffs.

The team went 12-18 in Lee's starts last season and he was 6-9, the lefty's lowest win total since 2007 when he went 5-8 with a 6.29 ERA with Cleveland. The following year, he went 22-3 and won the American League Cy Young Award. Rotten luck was the primary reason for Lee's misfortunes last season. If he posts a 3.16 ERA again in 2013 the law of averages should push things his way.

So much is riding on Halladay's health. His shoulder problems were real last season, which is why he failed to throw at least 220 innings for the first time since 2005. He also posted a 4.49 ERA, the worst since his disastrous 2000 season when he was demoted by the Toronto Blue Jays.

Amazingly, the Phillies still went 14-11 in Halladay's starts and he finished 11-8. But his 6.97 ERA in his final six starts and a 9.00 ERA in his final four should have everyone on edge. Halladay is throwing off the mound in Clearwater, but no one will feel entirely comfortable until they see how hitters are reacting to his pitches.

Hamels said he hasn't asked Halladay for any medical updates.

"That's I think the funniest thing about us," he said. "We don't even talk baseball. I think we've talked more football. He's done some fishing, so I've asked him about that. I haven't talked anything baseball-wise. I don't think he even knows when I'm coming down, so I'll probably surprise him."

It was Hamels who was surprised Monday night. He was not expecting any questions about his shoulder, and that was great news for a team still built around its pitching.


Contact Bob Brookover at bbrookover@phillynews.com and follow on Twitter @brookob.

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