Hamels not worried about Halladay: 'He's going to win'

Hamels not worried about Halladay: 'He's going to win'

March 16, 2013, 2:00 pm
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CLEARWATER, Fla. – The dew hadn’t evaporated from the grass when Cole Hamels threw his first pitch Saturday morning at Carpenter Complex.
 
Fresh from being named the Phillies’ opening-day starter, Hamels took his turn in the rotation in a minor-league intrasquad game so team officials could look at a handful of relievers in the varsity game against the Yankees in Tampa.
 
Pitching in the low-key environment of the minor-league complex, Hamels allowed four runs – three on a homer by Cody Overbeck in the first inning – over five innings. He pushed his pitch count to 84, which put him on target to get to 100 in his next start before tapering back in preparation for his first opening-day start two weeks from Monday in Atlanta.
 
“Fastball up,” Hamels said of the first-inning homer, preceded by a walk and a single. “After that first inning, I was pretty pleased. I used all my pitches. This is something I can build off.”
 
The laid-back setting in which Hamels pitched was starkly different from the one Roy Halladay will pitch in Sunday afternoon against Baltimore.
 
Bright House Field will be sold out and fans will be lubed-up (not necessarily with sunblock, either) as they celebrate St. Patrick’s Day.
 
Unlike the fans, Phillies officials, from manager Charlie Manuel and pitching coach Rich Dubee right up to the front office, won’t be in festive moods. They will be serious, focused and maybe even a little anxious as they train their eyes on Halladay, who makes his first trip to the mound since Tuesday’s troubling performance against Detroit.
 
Halladay was shellacked for seven runs in 2 2/3 innings in that game. He allowed two home runs, four walks, hit a batter and threw a wild pitch. His fastball topped out at a meager 87 mph. The performance sounded sirens around camp and another poor outing will raise the volume on the quiet fears that Doc is in serious decline.
 
After pitching Saturday, Hamels said, “I firmly believe we have a great team and we can win the World Series.”
 
But can the Phils reach that goal if Halladay is not the Halladay of old?
 
Hamels believes they can.
 
“If Doc’s not Doc, OK, now he just went from immortal to still sort of immortal,” Hamels said with a laugh. “He’s one of the best pitchers in baseball and he knows how to fight to the very last breath. He’s not going to go out there and give up. He still has the best pitches. He has the best sort of game knowledge. He prepares himself to win and he’s going to win.”
 
Even if Halladay is not the same guy who won two Cy Young awards in his prime, the Phillies have a top two of Hamels and Cliff Lee that is the envy of many teams. The Phillies need healthy, productive seasons from both lefties, regardless of how Halladay does.
 
Hamels was asked if a potential decline by Halladay would put pressure on him and Lee to elevate their games.
 
“I think all of us need to do that, not necessarily just the pitching staff,” he said. “The 25 guys on the team have to do that, along with the coaches. We have to motivate each other. We have to stay positive no matter if one guy goes down. That’s what was hard with last year -- we weren’t able to push to our top limits. I think that’s what we have to do this year, and I know we’re capable of it. I think we’ve realized that. When you take a step back, you know you can take a couple of steps forward and I think that’s what we’re doing.”
 
Missing the playoffs last season for the first time since 2006 was an eye-opener for this team. Hamels senses a resolve to return this year, a resolve to get to the World Series while this veteran team still has tread on its tire.
 
“Very close,” he said when asked how close he believed the Phils were to a World Series team. “But we have to play the very best baseball we can for 173 games. If we don’t take that approach then we’re selling ourselves short. That’s the attitude that we’re getting. You can feel it in the clubhouse. You can see the work ethic. This is something that we want to do. We want to win 173 games and that’s what we going to play for.”
 
It begins April 1 in Atlanta with Hamels getting his first opening day start.
 
“It’s an honor,” he said. “A lot of great pitchers have had that honor, and to be one of them is something I will cherish. To be able to get your team off to the right start sets the tone for the entire season. It's something I'll be able to remember for a really long time. At the same time, I'm looking forward to the season. It's going to be a great season."