Hamels resembling '08 postseason ace
In up-and-down year, Phils lefty thriving as playoffs near
MILWAUKEE -- It feels like forever since Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. gathered reporters at Bright House Field in Clearwater, Fla., to tell them that left-hander Cole Hamels had inflammation in his elbow.
They knew then that Hamels likely would miss his Opening Day start April 5.
"He'll start when he's ready to start," Amaro said in March. "If it's Opening Day, it's Opening Day. If it's some time beyond that then that's when it will be. For us, again, it's the same old mantra: It's not about Opening Day. It's about 162 games, and hopefully beyond 162 games that we really have to worry about."
The Phillies will play their 156th game of the season Monday night against the Astros at Citizens Bank Park, and Hamels will be on the mound. He also is scheduled to start Sunday's regular-season finale against the Marlins, although the Phillies could hold him back if they clinch the National League East before then.
They hope they do.
It has been a trying season for Hamels, who is 10-9 with a 4.11 ERA. He made his 2009 debut April 10 in Colorado, where he allowed 11 hits and seven runs to the Rockies in just 3 2/3 innings. He left his April 23 start against the Brewers at Citizens Bank Park after just 3 1/3 after Prince Fielder hit a line drive off his shoulder. Hamels departed his following start April 28 against the Nationals after he sprained his left ankle.
He has struggled with his command at times.
He has struggled with expectations since he earned World Series and National League Championship Series MVP honors last October.
But Hamels has pitched better recently. He is 3-1 with a 2.01 ERA in his previous six starts. He looks like he is returning to form at just the right time.
"I think it's being able to go out there, knowing what's at stake," Hamels said. "I think anytime September rolls around, and fortunately enough, I've been here when we've had to win every game. You still have to go out there... For some odd reason, I seem to bear down a little bit more and compete [in September] and I've been in situations where I've been able to win. It makes baseball more fun."
"I have a lot of confidence in Cole," Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said. "He's had some ups and downs. It took him a while to get going, but his stuff is there."
Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.