Now in his third season, Cole Hamels has taken the reins as staff ace of the Philadelphia Phillies. With just two months remaining in the season, Hamels knows that the race for a playoff spot is in high gear. King Cole sat down to talk about the playoff push, his devastating change-up and what to expect from his team down the stretch.
Holden Kushner: I can't help but say mention that you're a San Diego native. Watching Trevor Hoffman a lot, is there any correlation between Trevor Hoffman and the fact that you've got such a tremendous changeup? Is it something you worked on or is there anything else?
Cole Hamels: It's just something that I worked on. When you're able to watch a guy have so much success with a certain pitch, you know, that's the whole part of the game. If you want to get to that level, you have to have something that separates you and I think that's what separated him from being the all-time saves leader. If you want to get yourself to the next level and be one of those elite pitchers you have to develop something that will get you there and I think that's what a change-up has done for me and my career.
HK: I was talking to General Manager of another ballclub, and he said that you had mentioned one time that maybe even your broken arm had helped create movement on your changeup. Is there anything to that?
CH: Yeah, you know, that's a possibility. I think that's for the doctors to speculate but I know when guy's looked in when I had the broken arm surgery they said it could possibly help that. I'm just going to take it for all its worth and I might as well say yes it's helped, but I think all the hard work I've put in has helped too.
HK: What do you make of the Braves dealing Mark Teixeira to the Angels and going a little bit younger at first base with Casey Kotchman?
CH: Kotchman is a great player. He hit a nice two-run home run off of me to clinch a game for the Angels earlier. He's going to be another guy that's going to be a challenge. As for Teixeira, he's going to a winning team. They're most likely going to go to the playoffs and probably beyond that. Seeing the situation with a guy going into free agency, especially a guy with the talent Teixeira has, can definitely scare away ownership just because of the amount of money that they might want.
HK: What can we expect for your team in the final two months of the season?
CH: I think that with who we have and what he have right now, we're doing tremendously well. These are the types of players that we need to go all the way and the majority of the players we have are from last year's team. I think just because we didn't make it to the World Series last year gives us a little bit more fire inside to prove to ourselves and to the fans that this is going to be the year for us. We'll be in it to the end.
HK: It's a tight race with the Phillies, Mets and the Marlins. Is this where you expected to be?
CH: I know we were supposed to be on top, and with the rivalry we've developed with the Mets and what we had to look forward to going into the season, they weren't going to be the type of team that gave it away last year. They're going to battle all the way to the end and I think that's what they're showing right now. Everyone talks about how we're a second-half team, well now it's here. Instead of doing all the talking, we actually have to play.
HK: Speaking of the Mets, you had that six-run comeback in the ninth inning at Shea Stadium on July 22. Then you go into Atlanta and have a five-run comeback and another six-run comeback for wins. What does that say about your team?
CH: It's been great motivation for the team's spirits. I think the pitchers have been doing a great job keeping the team within a few runs each game. The bullpen comes in and shuts down opposing teams. It's just been something where we have to play together, and I think that's what we've been able to do the past couple games even though it might not have looked good on paper with all the runs that we're giving up.
HK: How are the Marlins staying in this race?
CH: They have tremendous talent. All of those guys on that team have the same amount of major-league experience as me, and they're all the same age as me. When guys talk about how they don't expect the Marlins to be that good, that kind of goes on me too because I'm in the same boat as them. I'm just on a different team. They don't know how to do anything but win and I think that's what's key. Especially because they're so young, they're having so much fun. I know it can be a little depressing being in Florida when you only average about 15,000 fans and it rains every day and the humidity is so high. Just because that's what they're used to, they're able to not think that much about it and when you have a team that only has to go down there once a month for three or four games it can definitely get to you, but that's what they're used to and so they go out there and play hard everyday.
HK: Talk to me a little bit about that bullpen and what Brad Lidge has brought to the back of it.
CH: Oh, it's been tremendous. We have a guy in Lidge who we can count on, fully and will get the job done. Going into every game, if we have a lead, we know that when it comes down to that eighth, ninth inning, we have a guy that's going to shut them down and we're going to get that win.
HK: What kind of message does it send out to this locker room when the Phillies traded for Joe Blanton from Oakland?
CH: It was great. He's done really well and I think coming back onto a National League team where, looking at him and talking with him, he's an athlete so it brings a little bit more to his game when he gets to go out there and hit. Over in the American League West, they weren't really in it because the Angels are blowing everyone out of the water. So to come over here and to get into that atmosphere that we have, it's going to be great for him.
HK: Are you scoreboard watching yet or do you ever scoreboard watch?
CH: Oh no, no. I think that scoreboard watching is for the last two weeks. There's a lot of baseball left and you just have to go into it worrying about winning. As for our team, I think that's the only thing we can really focus on because what it comes down to is about 80-90 wins to get us in the playoff race. So if you don't get even remotely close to that, I don't think you're even going to have a chance to scoreboard watch that last week.
HK: Being that you're a player, are you also a fan of the game? Do you follow the game or cheer anymore?
CH: Oh, of course. I've always been a fan of the game. I think that's why I love the game so much and wanting to play it. Growing up, I would just sit back and watch baseball and really appreciate what guys on the field do because it's so hard day in and day out to do it for 162 games. Especially in the type of atmosphere that the East Coast has and the central has with the sellouts and the crazy fans. It gets baseball into a different level than what I was really growing up with in the West Coast. I think that's kind of the tough part about the West Coast. It's that they have so much more to offer than sports. That's not the only thing that you can do out there and in the East Coast, the fans are really die hard. Being able to see that and play in front of it, I appreciate it more.
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