Cole Hamels spoke to the media for the first time at Spring Training on Monday. He used several cliches, which is to be expected. But Hamels made it known he is not worried about the contract negotiations and he’s completely focused on this season and winning.
Where there is concern is with the amount of time it takes to get a deal done; if it does at all. What Hamels did say is, there will be no deadline on negotiations between he, his agent John Boggs, and the Phillies organization. If it takes all season, Hamels says that will not be a problem and will not affect his on-field performance.
This is exceptional news, knowing that many players will shut down talks once the season begins (see: Albert Pujols/Cardinals). It at least shows his desire to remain with the franchise that drafted him in 2002. Jokingly, Hamels said that since he’s been here, the team has done a great job of keeping players they like, and that he hopes he’s one of them. Cole knows that this franchise wants him around for a long time, so both sides seem intent on figuring it all out.
What’s incredible is Hamels’ ability to pitch through pain. He was diagnosed with bone chips in his pitching elbow in Spring Training prior to last season, but also dealt with a hernia for part of the 2011 season. Hamels went on to a Top-5 Cy Young finish and put together his best season with the Phillies. Imagine if he’d been completely healthy throughout the season. Would he have won the Cy Young? It’s possible that his 2011 season was just the scratching of the surface of how dominant he can be.
Early on during the pitchers and catchers portion of Spring Training, Hamels says he feels spectacular. Not just health-wise, but his stuff is at a solid level at this stage.
Hamels also responded to questions about the fans. He commented that his relationship with them is strong, and when they do get on him, it only makes him want to win more. Hamels called it a “motivator.” Three years ago, that would not have been the case.
Something to note; Hamels is fairly candid. We’re used to hearing him spout off the normal “ya know’s” and the somewhat-scripted answers. He made it known he feels extremely comfortable. Hamels was ripped for his downturn in 2009, but the days of being the butt of the joke are long gone. He seems to legitimately want to stay where he’s been his entire career. Cookie-cutter response or not, Hamels says he plays for the love of the game and that he doesn’t worry about the money. The money, Hamels stated, will come.
It’s going to come and come in heaps. The only question is, what team will give him the heaps of dough? From the way he spoke, Hamels wants it to be Philadelphia. From all the comments coming from the organization, they want it to be here, too.
As far as those negotiations, Hamels was not sure when Boggs and Ruben Amaro Jr. would continue talking, although he did say it would happen soon.