Cole Hamels was the third Phillies player - following Jonathan Papelbon and Kyle Kendrick - to sit in the media lunch room/press conference room at Bright House Field in the last three days.
Why Hamels? Well, in case you haven't heard, he signed a one-year, $15 million deal last month that puts him in posiiton to hit the free agent market when the 2012 season ends.
And, it's safe to say he'll also be in position to become a very, very rich man. (Hello, Cliff Lee).
Anyway, here is everything Hamels had to say today:
Question: Did you come close to a long-term deal this offseason?
Hamels: No, no. We didn’t even really discuss one. We were really focused on getting through the arbitration process and discussing the one-year deal. That’s kind of what my agent and I, along with the Phillies, were really focused on. We were just really happy we were able to get that done and not have to go through the strenuous case process.
Q: How important is it for you to take that next step, get something long-term done here. Of are you willing to wait it out?
Hamels: I understand in baseball it’s a difficult process. I think most of the time I just go out and I just need to play. And I think I’ve really turned my focus on going in the day in and day-out activities and not really focus on the contract talks. Because if you’re able to go out there and play, things will get done. I know that’s why I have an agent. I don’t see too many players who know how to be a player and an agent at the same time. That’s why I’m very confident in my agent, John Boggs, he’s going to discuss things with the Phillies and the Phillies will discuss things back and forth. All I have to really worry about is just going out and playing.
Q: Are you setting a deadline for negotiations?
Hamels: No. No, I don’t have any deadline. I think the only deadline that is set is by major league baseball with five days after the World Series.
Q: So no opening day deadline?
Hamels: No, no no. I'm just going to go out and get ready and prepare for spring training and eventually prepare for the season and I can really ask for out of myself physically and mentally. Anything else I think can become a big distraction, and that’s not what I want to do. My teammates are going to count on me. The fans are obviously going to count. I just want to let them know that I’m here to play as hard as I possibly can and I’m not really thinking about that, and that’s why I have an agent.
Q: Because of retained core players and have brought in stars from the outside, confident will work something out?
Hamels: Ever since I’ve been here they’ve been able to do a really good job of keeping the guys that they draft, especially the guys that they like. I just hope I’m one of those guys that they like.
Q: Tell us about what you were like a few years ago?
Hamels: Probably said a few things too quick. Probably didn’t look at the bigger, broader picture before I said things. It’s just learning the game of baseball, how it works. The business side I don’t really try to focus as much on because it can get you in trouble. It’s a hard game. Four years ago we were winning the World Series and we were on top of the world. We haven’t been able to get back there and been able to win it when we’ve been so close. You think you have the right team and everything has to go the right away and I’ve seen that you might look really good on paper, but eventually you don’t have that sort of edge to get it done. I’ve been trying to keep that edge on, keep the positive mojo throughout the clubhouse, just being a guy that guys can count on when it’s my turn.
Q: Have you learned more about taking care of yourself physically?
Hamels: I think I know how to manage it a lot more. I know how to get things done when they need to be done or before something comes up or becomes too stressful on the body. I know how to make sure I take care of it and pitch every 5 days.
Q: Have you received advice from someone in similar situation, entering free agency?
Hamels: I really haven’t. Even the whole offseason, it wasn’t really a focus of mine. I was trying to recover from the two surgeries that I had. I feel like I’ve done a really good job of that. I feel really good. That’s just been the focus. The initial talks with getting the one-year deal, that was between my agent and the Phillies and we were able to get it done and I think that’s just kind of where I’ve been able to move on and get ready for the season.
Q: How serious was discomfort in elbow last year?
Hamels: I definitely knew it was there. I know there was a couple days where I didn’t know if I would be able to pitch as well as I was able to. Our trainers stayed on top of keeping me in good enough shape to get through it. I guess it feels a lot better now.
Q: When did the pain start?
Hamels: Spring training and I think a lot of players have bone chips and it’s not necessarily…they don’t notice them until it starts to affect what they’re able to do in their range of motion. The doctor said I had it for a couple years and it just eventually crept up and started affecting things. We were able to take care of it and get through the season.
Q: Amazed, since you had best season?
Hamels: It’s a great thing. But at the same time, when you’re so focused on getting ready, even when you’re not at y our best, I think a part of you enables you to go out and focus a lot more and fight till the very end and I think that’s kind of what it taught me. I’m just going to try to take that same mentality this season.
Q: Imagine how good can be if healthy all year?
Hamels: It’s a great thing but I think at the same time when you’re so focused on getting ready even when you’re not at your best, something, a part of you enables you to go out and focus a lot more and fight until the very end. I think that’s kind of what it taught me and I’m going to try to take that same mentality this year.
Q: Some guys get tired up or motivated about free agency. You?
Hamels: Truly I’ve just never even thought about it. I’ve been so focused on trying to get healthy and because of the way the season ended last year and not being able to go to the World Series and win it with the expectations, I’ve been more fired up about that.
Q: How delayed throwing program?
Hamels: Four weeks. I think that kind of – it hurt, but I knew because we were knocked out earlier I had those four weeks to do it. So I think it was a blessing in disguise.
Q: Also hernia surgery?
Hamels: Yeah, I did that the same day. I got two-for-one.
Q: How did that affect pitching?
Hamels: They were both uncomfortable. That was the best way I can describe it. Every day you didn’t have that spunk or that feeling that you knew you were going to go out there and have a great day. You’re just working through the process of getting ready. But I feel a lot better right now, so that’s the best.
Q: Willing to take less to stay here?
Hamels: The only way to answer that is I don’t know any better. All I ultimately want to do is play for a winning team, and the Phillies want to be a winning team. That’s ultimately the best way I can describe what I want to do is I want to play for a winner, and the Phillies want to win. They have two great pitchers that are here. What better way to get mentored by the best of the best? You can’t ask for anything more. To compete at a level where you’re playing with the best players, it ups your game even more and I’ve been able to learn from that and take it into my game.
Q: Take less this year to get arbitration deal done (17 vs. 15 mill)?
Hamels: I was kind of being educated about the whole arbitration process and trying to find a middle point. I know I’m no Tim Lincecum. I don’t have any Cy Youngs under my belt where you can ask for a little bit more. But my agent put together the scenarios and where to get the best financial way of what a contract should be, and I trust him with everything I have. He’s done a great job for me ever since I signed with the Phillies and he represented me. I trust him to the full extent.
Q: How do you weigh health and the ability to secure a long-term contract?
Hamels: Baseball if you do it really well you can make a ton of money, but ultimately I play this game because I love to do it and I want to be the best at it. If you’re able to do that, the money obviously comes. But I’m a pretty conservative guy, and money’s not the ultimate answer to anything. It’s really about going out and enjoying where you are, your teammates and the city and I seem to really enjoy Philadelphia.
Q: Are Cy Youngs, awards, etc., more important than before?
Hamels: Man, I think, of really seeing what it takes to be the best, it’s great, because ultimately that’s what I really want to do, I want to be the best. But I would trade every award possible for a WS ring, that’s the ultimate goal and that’s the greatest moments that you could ever have in any baseball career is to be in a WS and win a WS. Any player that’s ever retired and never won a WS would probably do anything possible to get a chance at it again and any player that has won a WS would love to be back in that moment. That’s kind of where I’m at, is I want to be back in that moment and the Phillies want to be back in that moment, and I’m just very happy and pleased that I can hopefully help them get there.
(losing WS, losing NLCS, losing NLDS) I guess they just keep getting more disappointing (laughs). I think our team’s gotten better, but unfortunately we just haven’t gotten, what Charlie normally says, the game, it’s about inches and we just haven’t had the ball take the inch in our direction. It’s just been very tough because every off-season, you go away from something and you feel like you were the better team, but ultimately you weren’t because you got beat by the team that was the better team and you want to be the better team and I think that’s kind of where it is, we’ve taken a notch in an opposite direction of where we want to be. Hopefully it’s motivated all the guys in the clubhouse because I know it’s motivated me.
Q: You've been here 10 years, but grew up out west. Are you West Coast or East Coast?
Hamels: I know I have to go visit my family all the time, so I know I gotta be real careful in my words otherwise they won’t like me anymore (laughs). No, I’ve been on the EC and I’ve enjoyed it. Ultimately the EC has some of the best sports markets in the world and it’s fun to go to some of those big cities and play and I think Philadelphia’s become that big city to want to come and play, and I’ve enjoyed every moment and I’ve actually got to see the process of going from a team that has just kind of been on the cusp to finally winning and still trying to win. That’s where I want to be, it’s where we’re winning and wanting to win for a long time, because I don’t think anybody wants to sit in a clubhouse in spring training and know you’re already out of it, I think that’s kind of depressing knowing that you have to play for the next 6 months and you don’t really have a shot of winning or you’re gonna get traded. To be here in the Phillies organization, you know you have a shot every single day and I think that’s the greatest momentum and motivator you could possibly have.
Q: Can you describe your relationship with Phila fans?
Hamels: It’s been great, there were a lot of expectations when I got drafted and coming up through the minor leagues, wanting to I guess being sort of that top prospect that everybody wanted to see, so that was exciting that people knew who I was even before I was in the big leagues. And then being in the big leagues, having the early success, having the down years, they do, they get on you, but at the same time they’re honest. Some people don’t want to be honest with themselves, but they just keep motivating you to get better, and I think that’s ultimately the best, you know you have a great fan base when they want you to succeed really bad and when you don’t, they’re pushing you behind, keep going, keep going. I think that’s the way I’ve always viewed Philly. It’s the best city in the world when you win. Even when you’re not winning, they’re still looking forward to that next year to see you and hope that you’re gonna win and be that winner.
(2009, say things taken out of context… frustrating to you?) I’ve learned (laughs). It was but at the same time it was a blessing in disguise because it really made me discover who I was and how I can prove people wrong I guess and how to work even harder to get better. That was the best stepping stone I could ever have in my career to really dig down deep and work harder, and to go out there and not to really prove to everyone else that I can be better but to prove to myself that I know I’m capable of doing it and this is what it takes in order to do it, and obviously with having some other great pitchers to be able to watch and learn from has also helped my game out even more.
Q: Given fact you’ve have some nagging injuries over the years, do you view signing later as a risk at all?
Hamels: No, just for the fact that when you do get injured, and I’ve been injured a few times … I guess, yeah, the weird nagging injuries that you don’t really expect, I really haven’t had the serious surgeries. I know how to overcome them. I know how to rehab. I know how to get through them. They’re not going to mentally take me down. I know how to come back and be just as strong or as capable as I always was.
Q: Priority: years or money?
Hamels: I think just probably more so the sort of chemistry that you’ll have with the team and an organization. Just kind of the acceptance and the want from an organization. To be a part of the team and to know what type of players you’re playing with. You don’t want to be playing with the type of team that’s going to crash in the end, or doesn’t have that sort of energy to go all the way and even fight or dig down deeper. That’s kind of what we’ve always had in this clubhouse. The organization has done a really good job of giving those types of players that don’t buckle under pressure. I think that’s kind of where you want to be. Being around great personalities, but also strong personalities. Guys that don’t buckle under pressure, and that’s kind of what we have here.
Q: It sounds like you’re saying, I’m going to be here no matter what. I’m going to make this work, period.
Hamels: And that’s obviously what my agent and Ruben are trying to work out. It’s kind of a matter of them getting the job done, and once it’s done everyone will now.
Q: Are they negotiating currently?
Hamels: I know they’re supposed to. (laughs) That’s all I can say. I know they’re supposed to.
Q: Did they do anything else to the elbow after cleaning out the bone chips?
Hamels: No, no. They just had the chip that they cleaned out. Dr. Ciccotti, our team doctor did it. I think he did a very good job. He said everything looked structurally fine. I just happened to have a chip that happens to pitchers from throwing so much.
Q: At this point you’re further along in spring training?
Hamels: I feel like I’m the same as last year. I think that’s really good. That’s kind of what I based everything off of was 2010, just the way I came back from there. And 2011, I really feel like I’m at the same sort of level. Now it’s just a matter of getting there and getting into the games and kind of perfecting things. Because you’re always going to have the kind of timing issues when hitters step in. You can’t simulate that in the offseason when you’re throwing in a gym somewhere and it’s cold outside and you’re throwing outside and nothing is around.
Q: When did you start throwing after the surgery?
Hamels: Nov. 6? Around there. It was about four weeks. It was pretty much on the nose about four weeks.
Q: Pain in that last start against St. Louis?
Hamels: I wasn’t comfortable. Throughout the whole year I wasn’t very comfortable, but there were days when things were good. It’s a matter of knowing how to control what you have that day. But that last start, they definitely made me work. You learn something there. You had a very hot team and obviously they showed why they were the best. It’s just damage control the whole time.
Q How do you feel? 100 percent?
Hamels: I hope I’m 100 percent, but I don’t think I’ll know that until I get through a few days of doing all these drills because it wasn’t like I was at home running PFPs and springs and throwing bullpens. As close to 100 percent as I can get.