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News » Rich Hofmann: The real Hamels back in house for Phillies

Rich Hofmann: The real Hamels back in house for Phillies

Rich Hofmann: The real Hamels back in house for Phillies
ONCE YOU SPRAY all the mud and muck off of this Baseball team (and it would take a fire hose at this point, given the current ineptitude up and down the lineup), the truth is that the most important fact established yesterday by the Phillies is that Cole Hamels looks like Cole Hamels again.

Of course, he would tell you, "I felt like I looked like me against Milwaukee. I guess it's just a matter of what you guys feel like it is. I felt good against Milwaukee and I knew that's where I was. It's just now I've pitched more innings."

The game against Milwaukee was on April 23, when he left in the fourth inning after absorbing a line drive to the left shoulder, which was before the start against Washington when he left in the fifth inning after spraining an ankle. The process of getting healthy and stretching out his arm has commenced from there.

Now he has had two good and calamity-free starts in a row. The latest was his best yet - seven innings pitched, one earned run allowed, nine strikeouts and 110 pitches against the Los Angeles Dodgers.

That the Phillies lost in 10 innings, 5-3, says a lot more about a stagnant batting order than it does about Hamels. That manager Charlie Manuel seems to be getting a little bit impatient with the fellas has nothing to do with Hamels, either.

This remains the truth: that pitching is what this team has to be about, and that Hamels is the one who has to lead this staff. And now he is.

"Being able to go out there and challenge tough hitters and being able really to hit my spots when I needed to, I think that's kind of where I want to be," Hamels said. "I think it's all about damage control. When guys get on, you don't want to allow them to score - but if they're in a situation, you want to let in as few runs [as possible].

"I just went out there and really just focused on trying to make each pitch and trying to hit my spot, or at least be down, to where they didn't have a big inning."

The question, then, went like this: Do you feel like you're at your best at this point, or are you close enough to see it? Remember, this was asked of a man who was the most valuable player of the National League Championship Series and the World Series last October.

But his answer was quick, as if it was a frivolous question.

So, your best?

"I don't know what would be better," he said. "I'm going out there and I'm competing as best as I possibly can. I wouldn't know what to do better. Sometimes you have luck go your way, which makes you look better, but I felt like I went out there and competed against a really good team and a good pitcher [Dodgers starter Chad Billingsley]."

Everything just seems normal again, after all of the mishaps of the first few weeks. There even was a Cole-being-Cole moment during the postgame interview in the Phillies clubhouse. As most everyone knows, the Phillies are visiting the White House this morning to meet President Obama and mark the final celebration of their 2008 World Series.

Anyway, Hamels was asked if he was looking forward to the visit.

"No comment," he said.

Later, someone asked about the "no comment."

He said, "I've already been, so . . . "

That was in September 2007, when Sen. Arlen Specter facilitated a tour and a meeting with President George W. Bush for Manuel and a half-dozen players, including Hamels. Exactly why that would prevent him from saying a few words about it is, well, just Cole being Cole.

He really has gotten it all back. And you get the sense that he was able to appreciate a pretty good pitching matchup against Billingsley, who also gave up one earned run and struck out nine in seven innings.

"I don't think it's frustrating," Hamels said, about losing on a day like this one. "I finally got matched up with a No. 1 guy. I think that's what really makes Baseball fun, knowing that you're going out against their best;

they're a great team, and that

really makes it exciting."

Hamels' record remains at 1-2. His ERA has dropped from 17.18 after his first start at Colorado to 5.04 today. If you take away that first start, the ERA is 3.37. The last hurdle was getting him up to 110 pitches, which was the number he reached against the Dodgers. Now it is just a matter of staying healthy and stringing together some outings.

"I feel good," he said. "I feel like it was good to go out and test my arm, 110. That's pretty much going to be the pitch count that I think most of us pitchers are always going to be on. Occasionally you have Billingsley go [123], which is pretty impressive. But that's kind of what I'll be pitching around and hopefully making it more towards eight innings than seven."

Big picture is tough on a day you lose, but those 110 pitches

really were the most important thing that happened yesterday for the Phillies . *

Send e-mail to,

or read his blog, The Idle Rich, at

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Author:Fox Sports
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Added: May 15, 2009

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