FILE - In this Oct. 4, 2015, file photo, Texas Rangers starting pitcher Cole Hamels throws during a baseball game against the Los Angeles Angels in Arlington, Texas. Hamels is under contract with the Rangers for at least three more seasons. And he is star
LM Otero, File
January 22, 2016

GRAPEVINE, Texas (AP) Cole Hamels is the kind of pitcher the Texas Rangers would have been trying to get this winter, had they not gotten the ace left-hander midway through last season.

Already part of an AL West title, Hamels is under contract with the Rangers for at least three more seasons. And he is starting to get settled more in North Texas, where Friday he completed the purchase of a new home before attending the groundbreaking ceremony of the Texas Rangers MLB Urban Academy and then the team's winter awards banquet.

''I'm really excited, been able to kind of communicate with the guys here a lot more, getting to know them a little bit better,'' Hamels said. ''I think we're all pretty excited for spring training to really get back and get into the group. ... This will be fun.''

The Rangers had long coveted Hamels before finally getting him from Philadelphia in an eight-player deal announced at the non-waiver trade deadline last July 31. That came after he threw a no-hitter in his last start for the Phillies.

Texas was eight games out of first place after Hamels made his Texas debut Aug. 1, an extra-inning loss. The Rangers also lost his second start, but then won his next 11 on way to the division title before a 6-3 loss in Game 5 of the AL Division Series at Toronto, when they had errors on three consecutive plays in that wild and decisive seventh inning.

''When you play with someone you see how they are, their preparation for the game. It's different. I like him,'' slugger Prince Fielder said. ''I'm glad he's on my team.''

Hamels said he is on his usual offseason conditioning schedule, though instead of having to throw against a wall in the basement of his Philadelphia home has been able to throw outside against a huge golf net in his back yard. ''I've lost quite a few baseballs into the woods,'' he said.

There have also been several trips to Texas for workouts. Hamels, signed through 2018 with a club option for 2019, is still doing long toss and will start getting back on a mound once February starts.

As for preparing for a full season in Texas, and the summer heat, ''Training in the cold doesn't help,'' he said, laughing.

''I normally have to kick it up a notch when spring training gets here just because of the weather situation,'' he said. ''You can only run so much on a treadmill inside. I'm pretty comfortable and confident that I will be where I need to be. ... April 1, I'm always good to go.''

Notes: 3B Adrian Beltre, who played much of last season with a torn ligament in his left thumb and missed two games in the ALDS, said he is feeling good while swinging a bat and throwing. He had surgery on his thumb in October. ''It's just nice getting to a point where it's comfortable doing everything,'' he said. Beltre expects no discomfort in spring training. ... OF Josh Hamilton took batting practice Friday for the first time since the end of the season, and a second surgery on his left knee in October. The slugger said he had pain in his knee a couple of weeks after rehab, but feels good after a cortisone shot Thursday. He said everything else feels good. Hamilton played only 50 games last season, when he missed spring training because of offseason shoulder surgery before being traded back to Texas from the Los Angeles Angels. ... The Texas Rangers MLB Urban Academy is being built on a 17-acre site in West Dallas. Along with Hamels, Fielder and Rangers general manager Jon Daniels, three-time NL Cy Young Award winner Clayton Kershaw of the Los Angeles Dodgers attended the groundbreaking. His charity organization, Kershaw's Challenge, is a contributor to the project in his hometown.

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