NEW YORK – The only thing hotter than Cole Hamels’ name in trade rumors is his pitching hand.
The left-hander delivered eight shutout innings. He scattered six hits, walked none and struck out eight.
Often the victim of poor run support, Hamels was backed by three home runs, including a grand slam by Chase Utley.
“It was good to see,” Hamels said of the six-pack of runs.
Over his last three starts, Hamels has pitched 23 innings and allowed just two runs. He has 27 strikeouts and one walk over that span.
Since June 1, he has a 1.58 ERA (15 earned runs in 85 2/3 innings) over 12 starts. He has 89 strikeouts and 24 walks in those 12 starts.
“He’s really in a groove,” manager Ryne Sandberg said. “You can see it just in the way he attacks hitters and with his aggressiveness and conviction.”
All right, let’s get to the juicy stuff: Is this guy going to be a Phillie after the non-waiver trade deadline arrives at 4 p.m. Thursday?
Sandberg said he would be “surprised” if Hamels were traded, but he added, “That’s not really my department.”
The Phillies, headed toward a third straight October of no baseball and in need of a serious retooling, have long made Hamels available -- for a steep price. They are seeking the type of return that could quickly rebuild a franchise -- multiple top, major-league ready prospects. If they get the return they want, great. If they don’t, they still have one of the best pitchers in baseball on their team.
The predominant feeling around the organization is Hamels, 30, will remain with the club as the cornerstone of the retooling effort. But if general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. is blown away, you never know.
What does Hamels think?
“All I know is I signed here for a very extended period of time (through 2018), so that’s what I’m going to uphold to be a Phillie as long as I possibly can because I enjoy it,” he said. “This is a great organization to me, and the fans have been outstanding. This is the place that I want to win again. It was such a great experience. All of us, especially these young guys, you can’t tell them enough that this is the place you want to win a World Series because it’s the most exciting time you’ll ever have in your career. For me, I want to be able to have it again here.”
Hamels’ name has been smokin’ hot in recent trade rumblings with teams like the Dodgers reportedly making a play for the pitcher. Hamels, who has a partial no-trade clause, can’t block a trade to the Dodgers.
Trade deadline time can be an anxious time for some players. Look at how reliever Antonio Bastardo flopped when his name got hot last week. Look at the poor performance delivered by A.J. Burnett with scouts watching him on Monday night.
Hamels has shown no anxiety. He realizes a trade is a possibility -- a long shot, but a possibility -- and he just keeps getting better and better.
“It’s not something I can affect,” he said. “I understand the nature of the business. I’ll never have hard feelings because it’s a tough position for an organization to be in, for fans, for other teams. If you start putting the pressure on yourself then you’re taking away the focus of what your job is which is to pitch deep into ballgames and win ballgames for whatever team I’m on. I just enjoy pitching for this team and that’s what I’m doing at this moment.
“I enjoy playing the game of baseball wherever it may be. I just want to go out there and do well for my teammates, for whatever organization wants me, and especially to put on a good show for the fans.”
Despite the Phillies’ offensive shortcomings, Sandberg has made it clear he wants to build this club around pitching a defense. He wants Hamels on his team now and in the future.
“I sure like when he takes the mound for us,” Sandberg said. “Going forward, you need pitching and right now he’s our best. So going forward, we need pitching. He’d be nice to have. Then again, I don’t know all the conversations that are going on right now.”