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.

Pete Mackanin talks Phillies' need for more offense, contract status

Pete Mackanin talks Phillies' need for more offense, contract status

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. — As the 2016 season was winding down, Phillies manager Pete Mackanin surveyed his low-scoring club and made public an offseason wish list that included “two professional hitters.”

So far this winter, he’s gotten one – Howie Kendrick.

Is that going to be enough to satisfy the skipper?

“You know what, I'm happy that we acquired Kendrick because we needed a solid, professional hitter,” Mackanin said at the winter meetings Tuesday. “Howie Kendrick is one of those guys. He knows how to give you good at-bats, grind out at-bats.

“We have guys like (Maikel) Franco and Freddy (Galvis), to name a few, who really need a better plan at the plate. I think Howie is going to help them out just by watching him take at-bats and go about his business. I think that's going to help a lot of our guys improve.

“I would like to get another guy. You can always use more hitting, more pitching, better players. But I'm pretty happy with Howie.”

There’s no doubt that Mackanin would like to add another hitter to an offense that ranked last in the majors in runs scored (610) and second to last in batting average (.240), on-base percentage (.301) and slugging (.385).

“Yeah, it would be nice,” Mackanin conceded. “We have to improve offensively.”

General manager Matt Klentak has spoken often this winter about the quandary he’s facing. He would like to add another bat in a corner outfield spot, but not necessarily at the cost of taking away an opportunity from a young player such as Roman Quinn or blocking the ultimate ascension of Dylan Cozens or Nick Williams. This is the tightrope that the GM of a rebuilding club must walk.

There are several corner outfield bats (J.D. Martinez, Jay Bruce, Andre Ethier) available in potential trades and others (such as Michael Saunders) on the free-agent market.

“It’s about striking the right balance between adding a veteran bat or veteran free agent to make our team better, but again, not taking playing time away from players that need the playing time,” Klentak said.

Mackanin understands all this. But he’d still love to have another bat.

Does he think he’ll eventually get one?

“That's hard to say,” he said. “Obviously I would like to have a solid hitter for the team, for the fans, for everybody. We would like to win more games. I think it would be very important, obviously, to improve our offense. … I think we owe it to the pitchers to create more offense so that they are in more games. Everything is still up in the air. It's early. Deals may be made in January or in spring training when things happen. So one move might create an opening in another. If we trade a pitcher, we get a position player. A lot of things can change, so it is a little too soon to think too much about that.”

Contract talk
Mackanin is entering the final guaranteed year of his contract in 2017. He has a club option for 2018.

Will the Phillies pick up Mackanin’s option before spring training to prevent a lame-duck situation?

Klentak was noncommittal on the subject Tuesday.

“We have time to do that,” he said. “Obviously last year we talked about his status in spring training and I’m sure the time will come when we’ll sit down and talk about it again.”

In March, the Phillies gave Mackanin a two-year contract with a club option for 2018.

“I hope they pick it up but that's not up to me,” Mackanin said. “That's up to them. I feel that when it's time for them to let me know, they let me know.

“But in the meantime, I'm not consumed by it. Hopefully it will happen, but it doesn't help me thinking about it.”

Phillies set stage for a spring-training closer competition

Phillies set stage for a spring-training closer competition

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. — The Phillies on Tuesday announced the signing of veteran reliever Joaquin Benoit and with that set the stage for some spring-training drama.

Who will be this team’s closer in 2017?

Benoit figures to be one of three candidates, joining Hector Neris and Jeanmar Gomez. Heck, you could even throw Edubray Ramos into the mix because he has the stuff to close, though his time might come further down the road when he's gained more experience.

“As we sit here today, I think we’ll probably enter spring training with a competition,” general manager Matt Klentak said of the closer role.

Phillies relievers had a 5.01 ERA last season, which ranked 28th in the majors. Klentak is trying to build a complete bullpen, not just find a closer. However, the closer role is the headline grabber in the bullpen and it’s difficult to settle upon other roles until a closer is anointed. So this will be one of the more interesting storylines in spring training.

Gomez fell into the job after others failed early last season and had a very nice five-month run. He recorded 37 saves before struggling badly down the stretch and giving way to Neris, whose fastball-splitter repertoire allowed him to strike out over 11 batters per nine innings last season. 

Neris could be the favorite coming into camp with Gomez sliding back into a seventh-inning or even multi-innings role. Ramos and lefty specialist Pat Neshek, picked up in a trade with Houston earlier this offseason, will be in the mix to pitch in the late innings and it would not be surprising to see Benoit emerge as the eighth-inning guy. Of course, this is all subject to change. There’s a lot of offseason left and it would not be a shocker to see Klentak trade one of his relievers in the right deal. But for now, Klentak believes he has an improved bullpen.

“We feel better today than we did a few days ago,” he said. “We have several players in our bullpen that can compete for the ninth-[inning job], the eighth, the seventh, the sixth. We’ve made our bullpen better.”

The Phillies are Benoit’s seventh big-league team. The 39-year-old right-hander has been one of the game’s workhorse relievers for more than a decade, recording a 3.79 ERA in 712 games in his career. He saved 25 games for Detroit in 2013 and had a 2.81 ERA in 51 games as a setup man for Seattle and Toronto last season. He struggled with the Mariners but was brilliant after a trade to Toronto in July. With the Mariners, he had a 5.18 ERA and 1.438 WHIP in 26 games. He walked 5.5 batters per nine innings and struck out 10.4 per nine. With Toronto, his control improved — he walked 3.4 per nine — and so did his ERA. He had an 0.38 ERA in 25 games with the Jays, allowing just one run in 23 2/3 innings.

“He really was two different guys,” Klentak acknowledged. “But as we drilled down into the data — strikeout rates, walk rates, batted-ball tendencies — there are some underlying things that he’s always done in his career that we think make him a pretty good candidate to have another good year. This guy has been really consistent for the better part of a decade.”

Over the last seven seasons, Benoit has posted a 0.98 WHIP. That ranks third among major-league relievers during that span behind only Kenley Jansen (0.89) and Craig Kimbrel (0.98).

Benoit will make $7.5 million in 2016. The Phillies are still a rebuilding club and they are not expected to contend in 2017. Therefore, it would not be surprising to see them turn Benoit into a prospect through a trade in July. This is contingent on Benoit pitching well, of course.