Cole Hamels Q&A with Leslie Gudel, Part I

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Cole Hamels Q&A with Leslie Gudel, Part I

A lot has changed since Cole Hamels signed his six-year, $144 million contract extension with the Phillies on July 27, 2012.

He has a larger role in the clubhouse. He’s anchoring a pitching staff with Cliff Lee that has battled injuries to Roy Halladay, which has forced the former Cy Young winner to reinvent his style, Jonathan Pettibone and John Lannan.

The Phillies have a new (interim) manager in Ryne Sandberg after firing Charlie Manuel on Aug. 16. And Ruben Amaro Jr. has committed to a rebuild.

Not exactly how Hamels drew things up when he re-signed with the Phils.

Hamels recently sat down with Comcast SportsNet's Leslie Gudel to discuss his decision to re-sign with the Phillies, his new role with the team and Sandberg among other topics.

Here's Part I of the interview. Check back on Sunday for Part II:

Q. Describe this year

A. Humbling. I think just kind of in a sense of really trying to discover who you are, what type of teammate you want to become. Sort of a time where changes are obviously being made. It’s something where what place, you know, where do you want to be and where do you see yourself being a part of the team?

Q. Are you struggling with that role change?

A. I think it is. It’s something you have to discover if you’re capable of doing it. Being able to transfer it off so that others can believe it. Because if you do some sort of scenario or event that others partake in or notice, they just don’t think it’s something fake.

They have to buy into it. You really do have to believe in it and make them believe it and believe in you. Kind of knowing where your role is and fulfill your role of being a good teammate.

Q. As you've grown, have you taken a more active role as a good teammate?

A. Yeah, I think you have to know your place on the team, especially since I've come up, I've always been the young guy. First and foremost, I've wanted to have success on the field as a selfish quality that all of us have. But at the same time, you realize that the game is bigger than just one person and it takes a team to win a championship and it takes a whole team to get through a whole year.

And if you're going to be able to do it, you understand that people are watching and they are coming to watch everybody -- not just one person. That's something we want to attract and make more grand. That makes more people come in general.

Q. Since players have left, are you responsible for bringing the team back together?

A. Yeah, of course, because if you're not responsible, you're not being a good teammate. I think everyone has to buy into it. Along with everyone has to go out and give it best effort they can because they describe the game of baseball as being a long season, which really, when you look at it, it's pretty short. And it's a pretty short time you get to play the game, and you never want to look back and say 'Man, I wish I had one more game' because that's what people always talk about, no matter what the sport, they wish they could compete one more time.

They have to buy into the aspect that we have to compete every single day. Even if it's in batting practice, even if it's ing spring training getting ready for the season. You can't let one game go. Even when you're out of it, you're never really out of it. And that's the part that I think Ryno is trying to portray, and a lot of us -- especially the older guys -- because it is going to be over for a lot of us sooner than we think.

This is the best city to play baseball in, especially when you been able to experience what I have been able to experience. Obviously, a bunch of my teammates have been able to experience it. To come from nothing, building up a team, riding it out, winning the World Series, then going back again, then to not be able to do it again, you start to realize that was the most fun we've ever had. Let's get back to that.

Q. What did you learn the most from Manuel?

A. You have to have leadership. To keep the young guys, and even the old guys, in check because we are humans, and we do need to be kept in check. Keep the good with the bad. You have to know how to roll through it, how to progress to become better. You really do have to fight to the very end. That's kind of what we all had because we never experienced what it was like to win, we kept fighting and fighting and fighting to get to it.

And then, all of a sudden, you taste it and then you want to keep it. So I think, because things change over, any team goes through it, you have to rediscover who you are. The values of what you have, and what type of team you want to bring to the field every day.

Q. Are you a vocal leader?

A. There might be a balance, but truly, every team has to have a vocal leader and then everybody has to have a leader on the field. Because I don't play every day, I don't think I can be that guy out on the field, using that as my strength. I think because I'm in the dugout every day, because I'm in the outfield every day, doing the work with everyone that might play that day, that's more so a position I should be in.

Q. Do you regret your decision to come back here?

A. No, this is where I have become part of this team and part of the family that the ownership, you know David (Montgomery), they've welcomed me in with open arms. It's been the best experience ever, so you don't want to leave something that's that great. It's a tremendous organization to be a part of. When you get to see fans that are supporting you every day out on the streets, wearing jerseys, that's why you want to play the game.

They're the ones that want to see you play it, and you're the one that wants to put on the best show for them. It's having that sort of pride that you get to be a part of something special, and this is the city to be a a part of something special. I've grown very, I guess, comfortable knowing that this is the best thing that if you want to be a competitive athlete and you want to win, this is the best place to be.

Q. What gives you the most optimism for being a Phillie?

A. There's a lot of guys coming in just because of the fact of the rollover. That's always going to happen. When guys get older, you have to bring guys in to compete. You know, you have to try to win every year. You don't just try to settle, and that's why I like the organization. They don't try to settle.

They try to win every year, so it's nice to see some of the guys they've drafted and see what they bring to the table, and what they can offer to myself and what I can offer to them to be quality major leaguers that can help us win a World Series. And I think that's kind of fun, to see the new players coming up and seeing the excitement that they have and to build relationships on that. And it does, it rekindles that fire of what you felt when you were brought up. It brings back the good memories.

Phillies officially sign outfielder Michael Saunders, DFA Severino Gonzalez

Phillies officially sign outfielder Michael Saunders, DFA Severino Gonzalez

The Phillies on Thursday officially announced the signing of outfielder Michael Saunders to a one-year deal with a club option for 2018. 

According to Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal, Saunders will make $9 million this season with the Phillies and the club option for 2018 will be worth $11 million with escalators potentially pushing it to $14 million.

Saunders, 30, is the left-handed hitting outfield bat the Phils were seeking. He hit 24 home runs for the Blue Jays last season in his walk year, making the AL All-Star team before slumping in the second half.

Saunders hit .298/.372/.551 with 16 homers in 82 games for the Blue Jays before the All-Star break, then hit .178/.282/.357 with eight homers in 58 games after.

He had a good year against same-handed pitching, hitting .275 with a .927 OPS and eight homers against lefties. 

He'll likely start in right field for the Phillies, with Odubel Herrera in center and Howie Kendrick in left (see Phils' projected lineup).

It was important to Phillies GM Matt Klentak that the player he signed to fill the spot in the outfield was not going to block young outfielders like Roman Quinn, Nick Williams and others.

On a one-year deal, Saunders came relatively cheap to the Phils, lingering in free agency as other hitters found contracts. In the middle of last summer, Saunders seemed poised for a multi-year contract like the four-year, $52 million deal Josh Reddick signed with the Astros. His second half cost him some money.

To make room on the 40-man roster for Saunders, the Phillies designated right-hander Severino Gonzalez for assignment.

Tommy Joseph focused on earning first base job, taking more walks

Tommy Joseph focused on earning first base job, taking more walks

There was no better story of personal triumph on the Phillies' roster than Tommy Joseph in 2016.

Dumped from the 40-man roster and passed over by 29 other teams on the waiver wire and in the Rule 5 draft in 2015, he reported to minor-league camp with his career on the line last spring.

Two months later, thanks to good health and a molten bat, Joseph's career began to spike upward.

But 4½ months in the big leagues and the promise of a starting job in the majors in 2017 hasn't changed Joseph's outlook or the mindset he will take into spring training camp next month.

He's still going to scrap and claw for everything, just like he did a year ago when he was fighting for his baseball life after a series of concussions put his career in jeopardy.

"I'm preparing the same way I did last winter," Joseph said during an offseason stop at Citizens Bank Park on Wednesday.

"The job is not given to me. I still have to win it. I'm not going to walk in and have it. Obviously, it's mine to take and I plan on going in and winning the job."

Joseph, 25, earned a significant slice of the starting first base job last year. But with Ryan Howard, the last piece of the 2008 World Series team, gone, Joseph has a chance to stake an even greater claim to the position in 2017 and establish himself as a serious building block in the Phillies' rebuild.

"Tommy came out of nowhere last year," manager Pete Mackanin said. "There's something to be excited about there. He was off the map and he did enough to warrant a real strong look this year. And hopefully, he can improve and take baby steps toward being a final product."

Joseph pushed himself to the majors and cut into Howard's playing time last season by hitting .347 with six homers, 17 RBIs and a .981 OPS in 27 games at Triple A. He came to the majors in mid-May and hit .257 with 21 homers and 47 RBIs in 107 games. In the fall, Joseph briefly played winter ball in the Dominican Republic, but right wrist tendinitis, now fully healed, cut the stint short.

Joseph's good showing at the plate in 2016 was partly the result of his finding good health. As he recovered from a fifth concussion in the summer of 2015, it was discovered that he had a series of ocular problems. They were addressed through therapy and ... well, it's amazing what a hitter can do when he can see the ball.

This year, Joseph will look to improve in the field. The converted catcher is looking to add quickness around the first base bag and that starts with better footwork. At the urging of bench coach/infield instructor Larry Bowa, Joseph has been jumping rope and doing box drills all winter.

Joseph also wants to improve his approach and mindset at the plate. Though he wants to drive the ball like his size — 235 pounds — and position dictate, he wants to improve his on-base percentage and thus his OPS, on-base plus slugging percentage.

Joseph struck out 75 times and walked just 22 times in 347 plate appearances in 2016 and his on-base percentage was just .308. But over the final month of the season, he made an effort to be more selective at the plate and he recorded a .327 batting average and .406 on-base percentage (while slugging .618) over the final 23 games of the season. He struck out 10 times but walked seven over that span.

"My whole career has been a battle when it comes to walking," Joseph said. "I started to listen and read more what veterans around the league were saying about on-base percentage and OPS. Slugging is important on the corners, but there are times you have to take your walks. It's relevant because the best players in the game have a high OPS."

Joseph needs to improve in this area for a couple of reasons. First, the front office is intent on building a long-term lineup around players who control the strike zone, i.e., those who don't chase bad pitches. And second, the Phils have a legitimate run-producing first base prospect in Rhys Hoskins set to take his game to Triple A in 2017.

Joseph knows all of this and takes nothing for granted.

"The only difference this year will be I'm on the big-league side in spring training, but everything still has to be earned," he said.

The Phillies ranked last in the majors — or "last in the world," as Mackanin said — with just 610 runs scored in 2016. The offseason additions of Howie Kendrick and Michael Saunders should help run production. So, too, should expected improvements from Maikel Franco and Joseph, two players who have the chance to be long-term building blocks.

"We've got guys at the big-league level that I choose to think are going to get better," Mackanin said. "Tommy Joseph is a perfect example."