What sore shoulder?
In his first interaction with Philadelphia reporters since the 2012 season ended, Phillies ace Cole Hamels denied on Monday night that he had experienced shoulder soreness early this offseason.
“I don’t even know what it was about,” Hamels said before the 109th annual Philadelphia Sports Writers Association awards dinner in Cherry Hill, N.J. “I’ve been healthy. That’s the last thing on my list.”
Earlier this month, general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. confirmed to CSNPhilly.com that Hamels had felt some shoulder soreness while throwing in October. Amaro said Hamels contacted team athletic trainer Scott Sheridan and was briefly shut down. Amaro said Hamels recovered and was able to resume his offseason throwing.
Asked about being shut down, Hamels said: “I haven’t even thought of anything of that sort. I haven’t even picked up the paper, so I don’t know anything about it. That’s the honest truth. I don’t know. I wasn’t the one that started it. I know I feel good, and I’m ready to go. That’s all I can really answer.”
It’s not uncommon for a pitcher to encounter soreness in his arm. To illustrate this, and downplay the soreness that Hamels felt in October, Amaro revealed earlier this month that the lefthander had dealt with shoulder soreness in September. For the record, Hamels pitched well that month, going 3-0 with a 3.32 ERA in six starts. In 38 innings, he struck out 44 (on his way to a career-high 216) and walked seven. The Phillies won five of those games.
Hamels did not deny that he felt some shoulder soreness in September.
“I did,” he said. “And I think that’s kind of the only case. And I think it’s just kind of the typical wear and tear that you kind of just get. But that was during the season. That was kind of where everything is. Once the season ended, it was kind of nice the season ended.”
Hamels was asked if he was alarmed by the September soreness?
“No, no,” he said. “Because I knew the season was going to end.”
Hamels pitched 215 1/3 innings. It was the fourth time in his career that he’d reached at least 200 innings, the measuring stick for top starters.
Hamels’ shoulder soreness – or non-shoulder soreness – is only an issue because he’s Cole Hamels and he’s very important to the Phillies. He demonstrated that in October 2008 and countless times after that. He became the face of the franchise in July when the team preempted his bid for free agency by signing him to a six-year, $144 million contract, the largest in Philadelphia sports history. In 2012, the Phillies missed the playoffs for the first time since 2006. If the Phils are going to make a return to October baseball in 2013, they will need a healthy Hamels to lead their rotation.
Hamels was adamant: He is healthy. Two weeks before spring training, he said he was right where he needed to be. He has already thrown three times from a mound.
“I feel really excited,” he said. “I’m looking forward to spring training and getting out of the cold.”
Hamels turned 29 in December. He is coming off a season in which he had a career-high 17 wins. It would not be surprising to see him make his first opening day start in 2013.
The Phillies went 81-81 in 2012. Washington won the NL East with 98 wins and Atlanta claimed a wild-card spot with 94 wins. The Phils have a lot of ground to make up. They are no longer the team to beat in the division.
“It’s the truth,” Hamels said. “We didn’t win. The other teams were ahead of us. We have a lot we need to improve on. And we have a lot that we have to do to get back to being a winning team – and that’s all up to the players. Ultimately, we have to stay healthy and we have to play the game we know we’re capable of. The other teams have the confidence of knowing they did their job well, so we have to come in and play the game well.”
The 2012 Phillies were doomed by a slow start. They went 37-50 before the All-Star break. They need to spring from the gates quicker in 2013. They will need good health from Roy Halladay, Ryan Howard and Chase Utley for that to happen.
“We have a lot to prove,” Hamels said. “We can’t take the backseat and hope that we can coast through. We really have to go after it from the very beginning and not hope that we can play catch-up because these (opposing) teams are not going to allow you to play catch-up.”
Hamels and his wife, Heidi, were honored as Humanitarians of the Year by the Philadelphia Sports Writers Association. The Hamels Foundation aids charitable causes worldwide.
Phillies shortstop Jimmy Rollins was also honored at the dinner with a special achievement award. Rollins has held down the Phillies' starting shortstop job for 12 seasons.