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News » Phil Sheridan: No bumps or bruises come with first win

Phil Sheridan: No bumps or bruises come with first win

Phil Sheridan: No bumps or bruises come with first win
Cole Hamels stepped in against the young righthander, then thought better of it.

He walked away, leaving Brett Myers' son to continue a clubhouse game of catch with his father - without the ace of the Phillies' pitching staff standing in like a hitter.

When you're having broken-mirror, black-cat luck like Hamels, it's best not to let toddlers throw baseballs in your direction.

"That's where I'll wind up getting hurt," Hamels said, with pitch-perfect gallows humor.

A couple of hours earlier, he had been the other kind of pitch-perfect, the kind Phillies fans have yearned to see again. Hamels worked his otherworldly change-up to fluster and confuse the Atlanta Braves. The result was Hamels' first win of the season - on May 8, about a month later than he would have expected.

Just as important, Hamels left the game under normal circumstances. After six innings (and 95 pitches) in which he ranged from unhittable to merely very good, he was lifted for a pinch-hitter.

"Shoot," Hamels said. "I'm glad nothing came down and hit me or something. It was almost abnormal, getting out there in the fifth inning and the sixth inning, like where am I? Because I haven't been out there in a really long time. I'll probably be sore the next couple of days, but that's just getting my spring training in. In May."

You know the litany by now. Hamels had a sore elbow in spring training, was pushed back in the rotation, and still pitched like a mere mortal in his first two starts. Then came the broken-mirror stuff. Hamels was hit by a line drive, ending one start, and twisted his ankle fielding a bunt, ending another.

The easy joke is that Hamels' wife accepted the World Series MVP car for him before last night's game so he wouldn't accidentally slam the door on his pitching hand. Of course, Heidi Strobel rode off in that silver Camaro because Hamels was preparing for an important-for-May start against the Braves.

His last start was April 28. Hamels missed a turn, resting the ankle. That meant there were two questions about Hamels last night. Would he pitch like the staff ace again? And could he avoid tripping over the rubber, splinters from the bat handle, falling anvils long enough to deliver a full performance?

Unfortunately, it's impossible to pitch in a uniform made of bubble wrap. Hamels was on his own here.

His change-up answered that first question. Watching Atlanta shortstop Yunel Escobar stagger across the plate, chasing the ball with a too-early swing, told you everything you needed to know. Hamels went through the Braves' lineup without allowing a baserunner. Five of the first nine outs were strikeouts.

"I really wanted to go somewhat deep in the game," Hamels said. "Our bullpen's been used. I think I abused them the first couple of games of the season. I want to get back to what I know I'm comfortable with, which is going deep into the game and have them relying that I won't shortchange them."

That's the part Hamels can control, the pitching part, and he came through. The other part - shoulder-seeking missiles, awkward turns of the ankle - was another matter. That's why you didn't hold your breath when Hamels delivered a pitch to Chipper Jones or Garret Anderson.

You held it when Hamels hit a soft grounder down the first-base line and had to run hard - which paid dividends when the throw wound up in right field and two Phillies runs scored.

You held it when Casey Kotchman hit a soft chopper that bounced high over Hamels' head in the fifth inning, or when he had to snap out of his follow-through to reach high for Jones' similarly hit ball.

Those are the moments that have plagued Hamels this season.

"The one that I jumped, from Chipper, I was surprised I even jumped," Hamels said. "Even landing, I didn't feel anything. That was a good feeling. Being able to run the bases, [the ankle's] obviously not healed, but it didn't hurt."

He issued a couple of two-out walks in the sixth, bringing manager Charlie Manuel out to the mound. Manuel, mindful of Hamels' pitch count, intended to take his ace out of the game. But catcher Chris Coste and second baseman Chase Utley lobbied for Hamels to stay, and Manuel changed his mind.

"That was great," Hamels said. "Having my team's confidence is the best. The ultimate goal is to have your team count on you."

Really, that's a measure of how much the Phillies need to count on Hamels. They weren't able to until now. He wasn't effective early, then the freak injuries started. But the Phillies know very well what he did when they counted on him in October. That's the pitcher they need every fifth day, especially when they're not sure what they're getting the other four.

Contact columnist Phil Sheridan at 215-854-2844

or Read his recent work at

Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:
Added: May 9, 2009

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