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-Dodgers 5 things: Phils face resurgent Brandon McCarthy

Phillies-Dodgers 5 things: Phils face resurgent Brandon McCarthy

Phillies (11-10) at Dodgers (12-12)
9:10 p.m. on CSN; streaming live on CSNPhilly.com and the NBC Sports App

The Phillies' six-game winning streak came to an abrupt end out west Friday night. The beauty of baseball is that you have a chance to start a new streak a day later. Zach Eflin looks to avenge a poor performance from last season while the Dodgers send out veteran righty Brandon McCarthy at home.

Here are five things to know for Saturday evening's game.

1. Two strong starts for Eflin
In his second season as a big-league starter, Eflin is off to a lot better start than last year. 

If you remember his MLB debut, he gave up eight runs and retired just eight batters against a Blue Jays team that could hit the snot out of the ball … and did. Through two starts, Eflin had a 10.80 ERA and two losses to his résumé before coming into his own over the next two months.

This year has been just about the opposite. Eflin clearly looks comfortable on a major-league mound. He's turned Clay Buchholz's spot in the rotation into a positive. He's allowed just three runs and one home run in 12 innings, good for a 2.25 ERA.

The modern thinking is that an ideal pitcher strikes out a lot of batters, avoids walks and home runs, and induces weak contact. Eflin has done all but the strikeouts. His sinker has been marvelous and the Mets/Braves had little chance to do damage against it. Pete Mackanin described the sinker as a bowling ball. That just about says it all. The sinker won't induce that many swings and misses — thus the lack of strikeouts — but he can throw it in the zone and keep hitters off balance.

The Dodgers kind of ended Eflin's season last year. In reality, it was dueling knee injuries that did Eflin in (see story), but the Dodgers were the last team to take advantage of an ailing Eflin, hitting three home runs and scoring seven runs in just three innings Aug. 8. Even the outs in that game were generally line drives. Chase Utley, Yasmani Grandal and Corey Seager — all of whom could be in the lineup Saturday — took the now-23-year-old righty deep.

Being a righty against the Dodgers isn't all that advantageous as the team boasts those three hitters and Adrian Gonzalez, Andrew Toles and Cody Bellinger as lefties who can put up disruptive plate appearances. Unfortunately for the Phillies, they have a rotation full of righties and are unable to take advantage of the Dodgers' platoon issues.

2. Dodgers send out resurgent righty
The first two seasons of Brandon McCarthy's deal with the Dodgers essentially went by the wayside. Now, the 33-year-old starter is picking up where he left off in 2014.

McCarthy has long been one of the more entertaining and thoughtful players in baseball, as evidenced by his Twitter account. The veteran righty has also been a steadily average to occasionally above-average pitcher in 12 MLB seasons, bouncing around teams mostly on the west coast. He posted career-worst numbers with the Diamondbacks in the first half of 2014, but he rebounded in the second half with the Yankees, pitching to a 2.89 ERA in 90 innings despite the hitter-friendly confines of Yankee Stadium.

He parlayed that second half into a four-year, $48 million deal with the Dodgers and that was almost immediately derailed by Tommy John surgery. Going into 2017, he had thrown just 63 innings and made only 13 starts in the first half of his contract. McCarthy was one of many Dodgers pitchers on the disabled list during a 2016 with a record-setting number of injuries for the club.

But now he's apparently back to form and, perhaps most importantly, he's healthy. He's made it through four starts unscathed this year and is 3-0 with a 2.25 ERA to boot. He's allowed just 18 hits in 24 innings. Similar to Eflin, he relies primarily on a dynamic sinker that sits in the low-to-mid 90s. He also features a low 90s cutter and an 80 mph curveball, both of which grade out well this season.

Only three current Phillies have any history vs. McCarthy. With his history in the AL West with the Mariners, Michael Saunders has faced McCarthy plenty with sub-par results, going 2 for 13 with five strikeouts. Freddy Galvis is 3 for 3 off the righty while Andres Blanco is 0 for 1.

3. How does the Dodgers' bullpen stack up?
Going into Friday's action, the Dodgers' bullpen had a 3.15 collective ERA, good for eighth in all of baseball and second-best in the National League. As a whole, the crew strikes out 10.29 batters per nine innings and has the highest wins above replacement of any bullpen in baseball.

Any conversation about the Dodgers' 'pen starts with Kenley Jansen, one of the premier closers in the game today. He overwhelms hitters with a cutter many consider reminiscent of Mariano Rivera. It isn't quite up to Rivera's level, but it is still wildly effective. He has a 2.16 ERA and 16 strikeouts in 9 1/3 innings this season, locking down six saves in six chances. He dominated the Phillies on Friday night.

Setting up for him primarily is righty flamethrower Pedro Baez. Baez pitches with a dreadfully slow pace but great results, striking out batters at a similar clip and takes a 1.08 ERA into the weekend. Righty Josh Fields and lefty Grant Dayton each hadn't allowed a run this year before Fields let one up in the eighth inning Friday while lefty Luis Avilan has been effective primarily vs. lefties. 

While Chris Hatcher and Ross Stripling, both righties, each has a loss this season, they've still achieved OK results pitching often in low leverage situations. The biggest disappointment for Los Angeles has been the offseason signing of former Giants closer Sergio Romo. The 34-year-old has a 10.57 ERA through 10 appearances and has walked as many batters as he's struck out. If the Phillies get to face Romo in a big situation this weekend, it'll be a tremendous opportunity to do some damage.

4. Players to watch
Phillies: Freddy Galvis takes a 10-game hitting streak into action on Saturday night. Not only does he have good numbers off McCarthy, he's also simply off to the best start to his career. The Phillies' shortstop has traditionally been a better second half hitter but he has a career-best .269 average and .487 slugging percentage thus far.

Dodgers: While he is currently playing corner outfield, rookie Cody Bellinger is the Dodgers' first baseman of the future. Currently the No. 10 prospect in baseball, he had five home runs in Triple A Oklahoma City and is projected to have legitimate in-game power at the major league level. 

5. This and that
• The Phillies went 2-4 vs. the Dodgers last season and haven't won a series at Dodger Stadium since April 21-24, 2014, when they took three of four.

• Frequent trade partners in recent history, the Phillies and Dodgers have teamed up for eight trades since the 2012 trade deadline. Eflin himself came to the Phillies in the 2014 Jimmy Rollins trade.

• McCarthy is typically at his worst in April. He has a 5.01 ERA for March/April in his career, his worst for any month. However, he pitched well the two times he faced the Phillies. He threw eight shutout innings in 2013 and gave up two runs while striking out 12 in seven innings during the 2014 season.

Pain-free, Zach Eflin is ready to climb Dodger Stadium mound again

Pain-free, Zach Eflin is ready to climb Dodger Stadium mound again

LOS ANGELES — What Zach Eflin remembers most about his last start at Dodger Stadium isn't so much the result, it's the long walk he took up the corridor behind the dugout to the visiting clubhouse.
 
It hurt.
 
Physically.
 
Eflin lasted only three innings in that game on Aug. 8 of last season. He gave up seven hits, three of which were home runs, and seven runs before walking gingerly to the clubhouse, his night and his season over.
 
"I remember feeling pain as I walked to the trainer's room," he said Friday.
 
Eflin will be feeling no pain when he returns to the Dodger Stadium mound Saturday night. He had dealt with chronic tendinitis in his knees for years. The flare-up that affected his performance and forced him to leave the game the last time he pitched in Dodger Stadium hastened his decision to have offseason surgery — on both knees — to fix the problem.
 
"Surgery was always something off in the distance," the 23-year-old pitcher said. "But after that night, we sat down and talked about it. It was absolutely a good thing that we took care of it at that point, do it while I'm young, make sure it's a 2016 injury and not a career injury."
 
Team physician Steven Cohen performed the surgeries six weeks apart in August and September and Eflin says, "I feel completely rejuvenated. It's like night and day."
 
The surgical procedures, Eflin said, involved Cohen cutting a two-inch vertical incision over the middle of the kneecap.
 
"He cleaned out some dead tissue and little tears," Eflin said. "He drilled some holes in the kneecap, moved some stuff around and glued it all down."
 
Obviously, that's not a scientific description of the surgeries, but all that matters to Eflin is, "I feel great now."
 
Eflin got in on the ground floor of the Phillies' rebuild. He came to the Phils in the first trade that the team made after embarking on its rebuild after the 2014 season, the one that sent Jimmy Rollins to the Dodgers. Eflin was actually a San Diego Padres prospect as the trade was going down. The Phillies targeted him and got him in what was ostensibly a three-team deal. Eflin was a Dodger for about 20 minutes before joining the Phillies' organization.
 
The Phillies took it easy with Eflin out of the gate this season, giving him a little extra time to get used to his new knees. He has made two starts with the big club and given up just three runs in 12 innings. His last start was excellent — seven innings of three-hit, one-run, no-walk, three-strikeout ball in a 5-2 win over Atlanta.
 
Eflin would like to duplicate that effort as he returns to the Dodger Stadium mound Saturday night. He will be opposed by right-hander Brandon McCarthy.
 
"I'm ready to go and take care of business," he said. "I'm excited to take the mound healthy."