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Hamels to start Saturday with an eye toward '20

September 26, 2019

PITTSBURGH -- Cole Hamels wants to take the mound one last time for the Cubs not only for this season, but also with next year in mind. Hamels is heading into free agency for the first time in his 14-year career in the big leagues and will do so following

PITTSBURGH -- Cole Hamels wants to take the mound one last time for the Cubs not only for this season, but also with next year in mind.

Hamels is heading into free agency for the first time in his 14-year career in the big leagues and will do so following a season that was marred by injuries. The lefty would very much like to remain in the Cubs' plans for 2020, but he also believes taking the mound on Saturday in St. Louis can also give other teams one last look at what he can offer.

"I don't want to put that in the back of teams’ heads of how I finished," Hamels said. "I think I'm capable of what I was able to do in the first half. That's who I am. And I can still get those good results for, hopefully, it would be this team, if they consider that. But, also, for other teams to know that I'm not the type of player that's on the regression."

The 35-year-old Hamels had his scheduled start skipped last weekend against the Cardinals at home due to left shoulder fatigue. He also missed July while working his way back from a left oblique injury that threw a wrench into what was developing into another solid campaign from the veteran starting pitcher.

Over his last nine outings, covering the time period after Hamels returned from the injured list, he has gone 1-4 with a 6.39 ERA. In 38 innings in that stretch, he allowed 54 hits, including eight homers, and posted 38 strikeouts against 21 walks. Hamels went 6-3 with a 2.98 ERA, 97 strikeouts, 85 hits allowed (nine homers) and 35 walks in his first 17 starts (99 2/3 innings) this year.

"It was just kind of a recipe for disaster," Hamels said of the timing of the injury. "That's the tough part of this situation."

So, by taking the ball one last time, Hamels will try to gain some peace of mind, while attempting to show the Cubs and other teams the type of pitcher he feels he can be in 2020.

"It was a dream come true," Hamels said of his season and a half with the Cubs. "I love pitching at Wrigley. And to be able to put a Cubs uniform on, this is a tremendous organization and one of the best fan bases you can ever play in front of."

Maddon expects decision soon

When the Cubs' season ends, manager Joe Maddon plans on heading to his hometown of Hazleton, Pa., to start his offseason. Maddon expects to know whether he will be riding off into a new chapter or whether the Cubs plan on offering him a contract extension.

"I've got to know by Monday, yeah," Maddon said. "I'm certain I'll know what they're thinking by then and I'm certain I'll be driving to Hazleton right around some time next week. I'm looking forward to that a lot."

Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein is currently with the team and will continue to talk things through with Maddon behind the scenes in the coming days. Epstein has declined comment so far about the timing of the team's decision on Maddon's future.

"I'm going to keep that between me and Joe," Epstein said on Wednesday. "It's just not something I'm comfortable talking about."

Lester praises Maddon

Following Wednesday's game, Cubs starter Jon Lester had high praise for Maddon, saying the manager should be "revered as a legend in this town for a long, long time" no matter the outcome of Chicago's thinking for the managerial role moving forward.

"What he did for this organization," Lester said, "you talk about a rebuild, you talk about signings, you talk about all that stuff, he was the first guy to write his name on that paper. He believed. Him believing made other people believe. So, what he’s done not only for this organization, but for this city, is huge."

Maddon said it meant a lot to hear those words from the veteran pitcher.

"Jon doesn’t throw out platitudes easily," Maddon said. "I appreciated it. I gave him a fist bump when I saw him today, because again, I know he would not say anything he did not mean, ever."

Worth noting

• The Cubs have a roster filled with veteran players who lead by example. When a season goes awry, however, a common question is whether a team had enough vocal leaders in the clubhouse. Maddon did not view that as an issue this year.

"We communicate so much," Maddon said. "I can't point a finger there at all. I can't do that. I won't do that. I thought we had a great communicative network built up. We just didn't play well enough. That's what it just comes down to."

• Right-hander Alec Mills will start for the Cubs on Friday, followed by Hamels on Saturday in St. Louis. Chicago's probable starter for Sunday's regular-season finale remains to be determined. That means right-handers Kyle Hendricks and Yu Darvish are done for the year.

"There's really no reason to push it any further right now," Maddon said.

• Maddon noted that he will check in with first baseman Anthony Rizzo and second baseman Ben Zobrist, but there is a strong chance they will not play in the series in St. Louis. The manager said he will have a similar chat with outfielder Jason Heyward as well.

Jordan Bastian covers the Cubs for He previously covered the Indians from 2011-18 and the Blue Jays from 2006-10. Read his blog, Major League Bastian and follow him on Twitter @MLBastian.