ST. LOUIS -- There were boxes of new shoes stacked in his locker, a new uniform to try on, new teammates to meet and hugs from familiar faces like Jesse Chavez and Yu Darvish. Cole Hamels arrived at Busch Stadium on Saturday, and he wasn't able to bring the Cubs luck in their 6-2 loss to the Cardinals, but the lefty was eager to pitch for the National League Central division leaders.
"Just being able to see the talent over here, facing them, I'm glad I don't have to face them now," said Hamels, whom the Cubs acquired from the Rangers on Friday. "The guys they've added on with free agency and some recent trades, they've got such a great group of guys. I feel lucky to be a part of it.
"With what they've been able to do this season, hopefully, I'll fit right in and do my thing and get them some wins. They've really been doing some serious groundwork. I get to kind of sit back a little bit. As you get older and you become a veteran, sometimes you're along for the ride with the type of young talent they have. It's just, 'Do my part and enjoy the moment.'"
Hamels was looking forward to watching Jonathan Lester, another 34-year-old left-hander who is the ace of the Cubs' rotation. Any time he's scouted a team, Hamels said he's watched video of what Lester has done against them.
"I was fortunate to have Cliff Lee on my team for a while, and he showed me the way," Hamels said. "I think Lester and I can play off each other."
Hamels also was looking forward to a fresh start after posting a 1-3 record and a 11.12 ERA in four starts this month.
"July was not a fun month," said Hamels, who will make his first start for the Cubs on Wednesday. "I've known this whole year I was struggling mechanically. It was a struggle to try to get right, and fortunately, you keep going out there and I wasn't able to make the necessary corrections until recently. I've been healthy the whole time. It's just a matter of trying to be in sync and letting the results happen.
"I think on this team, you get a little bit of revitalized energy. There's something you're playing for, and I think that takes into effect and kind of ups your game.
"The moment you go to a different league, it's a clean slate."
Hamels won't have to deal with a designated hitter or Globe Life Park in Arlington, where he was 1-7 with a 6.41 ERA this season.
"I know what I have, what I'm capable of doing, and I'm really confident I'll be able to do it here," Hamels said.
What's also encouraging for Hamels is that he's feeling better about a two-seamer he's been working on, admitting that he's given up a few home runs on that pitch. He's also had a tough time against left-handed hitters, who are batting .290 against him this season.
"I really have to attribute that to not being able to locate a two-seam," Hamels said. "Most of the time they were getting hits, it was two-seams that were going back over the middle."
Hamels has always wanted to pitch for the Cubs, and that was well before he threw a no-hitter at Wrigley Field on July 25, 2015.
"When I'd get home from school, WGN [TV] was turned on and the Cubs were playing," Hamels said.
Hamels got a text message from his friend, former Cubs pitcher Mark Prior, welcoming him to Chicago.
"Every time I go there, I love to pitch at Wrigley," Hamels said. "It's a great division to play in, and I've had great success when I was in the National League. I'm bringing that back and get to hit again. Hopefully I can drop a few home runs and catch up to Lester and those guys. I think they have more than me."
Joe Maddon also seems to be inspiring. Hamels was the World Series Most Valuable Player Award winner in 2008 against Maddon's Tampa Bay team, and Maddon was the Cubs' manager in 2015 when the lefty threw his no-hitter.
"When he's on the field, I do well," Hamels said. "If he's somewhere on the field, I pitch well. I'm going to thank Joe for that. And I guess we'll have wine later."