June 21, 2015

Every start Cole Hamels makes has the feel of an audition.

The New York Yankees are likely among his potential suitors, and they'll get an up close look at the left-handed ace Wednesday when they try to prevent him, Mikael Franco and the Philadelphia Phillies from completing a three-game sweep.

The most sought-after pitcher heading into the trade deadline, Hamels (5-5, 2.96 ERA) is being scrutinized by nearly every team with playoff aspirations. Multiple reports have stated he is willing to waive his no-trade clause for the right destination.

His $22.5 million annual salary through 2018 makes his likely landing spot a big-market team, and the Yankees (38-33) are still as big market as it gets. New York may be in a position of need given CC Sabathia has struggled all season - further evidenced by giving up two homers and six runs in 4 2-3 innings in Tuesday's 11-6 loss - and, despite his success, Masahiro Tanaka generates anxieties due to arm issues since arriving from Japan.

Scouts will break down Hamels, who brings additional intrigue to the Bronx after missing his last scheduled start due to a strained right hamstring. He was sharp in his last outing June 14, however, striking out a season-high 12 in seven innings of Philadelphia's 1-0, 11-inning loss at Pittsburgh and scattering four hits and one walk.

"There are times when you just want to be smart no matter what the circumstances are," Hamels told MLB's official website Monday, one day after a successful bullpen session. "I know they're a little bit different than previous circumstances in previous years, but I'm not going to change the way I like to play the game and prepare for the game."

The Phillies (26-47) have failed to provide Hamels any runs in three of his last four starts, and his 2.58 run-support average is tied with St. Louis' Lance Lynn for the lowest in the NL. There is optimism Hamels will get some backing as Franco has gone 6 for 8 with three homers and 10 RBIs in the two victories in New York, and Philadelphia is enjoying its best three-game stretch of the season offensively with 31 runs and 42 hits.

Franco is the first player in the majors to drive in 10 or more runs in a three-game series this year and the 12th since 1914 to have 10 or more RBIs in a two or three-game series versus the Yankees.

''Using the whole field,'' Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg said. ''Right now he's a pretty good force right in the middle of the lineup.''

As the Yankees ponder chasing Hamels, Ivan Nova is finally joining their rotation. The right-hander is making his first start in 14 months after undergoing Tommy John surgery and hopes to provide a spark to a rotation that is last in the AL in opponent batting average (.280) and among the worst with a 4.50 ERA.

"It was the moment that we were waiting for," Nova said Monday. "I was coming in here each and every day and making sure that I did everything right. I was pitching in the minors, trying to get everything done and good to go. ... I'm really anxious and happy to be back."

New York has allowed 34 runs during a three-game skid and given up nine or more in six of its last 12 games. That has overshadowed an offense hitting .361 with 19 homers while averaging 8.0 runs the last six contests.

''It's not enjoyable to watch and it's not enjoyable to be a part of,'' manager Joe Girardi said.

Alex Rodriguez is 11 for 25 with three homers and 10 RBIs during a seven-game hitting streak. With 3,006 hits, he is one shy of tying Al Kaline for 27th all-time.

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