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Hamels doesn't want a 6-man Rangers rotation

Texas ace minces no words about preference for traditional setup
Special to MLB.com

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Rangers ace Cole Hamels talks about his conditioning regimen and routine like he's a scientist explaining a constantly evolving body of empirical knowledge -- and Saturday, he dismissed the idea of a six-man starting rotation as quickly as an astronomer would scoff at the theory that the earth is flat.

The Rangers have floated the possibility of rotating six starting pitchers, but the lefty made it known after his first spring outing that he would rather not have to participate in such an experiment.

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SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Rangers ace Cole Hamels talks about his conditioning regimen and routine like he's a scientist explaining a constantly evolving body of empirical knowledge -- and Saturday, he dismissed the idea of a six-man starting rotation as quickly as an astronomer would scoff at the theory that the earth is flat.

The Rangers have floated the possibility of rotating six starting pitchers, but the lefty made it known after his first spring outing that he would rather not have to participate in such an experiment.

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"It's not part of baseball," Hamels said after he allowed four earned runs on five hits in 2 1/3 innings in a 9-4 loss to the Giants on Saturday. "I know that's the new analytical side of trying to reinvent the wheel, but I was brought up in the Minor Leagues on the five-man, and that's what I'm designed and conditioned for. That's the mental side of how you prepare, how you get ready for games, how you condition your body. You throw in the six-man, you might as well be in college. ... That's just not what MLB is to me. That's not how I learned from my mentors, and that's not the type of way that I'm here to pitch.

"I've never prepared for that, I've never had to learn that, and to learn it this late and where I am ... maybe if I was 40 trying to still hang on, I'd do anything."

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It's true, Hamels isn't 40, but he is closer to that milestone he is to 25, and last season was the first in a decade in which he wasn't a virtual guarantee to pitch every fifth game. He turned 34 in December and is coming off the first season since 2007 in which he made fewer than 30 starts. An oblique injury kept him out of much of the early part of 2017, limiting him to 24 starts, so he is putting a premium on core strength and balance exercises this offseason.

"In order to prevent injuries, you have to make sure you turn on the right muscles and you strengthen everything accordingly, just so that you can go out there and feel like a 22-year-old," Hamels said. "My workouts are a little bit more intense [this spring]. I'm really trying to establish better, complete, total-body workouts and to make sure I have a better balance and I have the flexibility. I'm really trying to identify why that happened and making sure that it never does."

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Hamels prides himself on his durability, having thrown more than 200 innings in eight different seasons. The Rangers discussed the possibility of a six-man rotation with Hamels this offseason, but he remains leery of any system that would ask him to alter his routine between starts and/or pitch less frequently. Even though manager Jeff Banister has posited that a six-man rotation could still have as many as 32 starts for its No. 1 pitcher, thanks in part to more off-days this season, Hamels is skeptical.

"That's still pushing it," Hamels said. "Thirty-three or 34 starts are what I design, that's what my goal is and that's what I intend to do.

"This is what I've done. I'm a guy that pitches 200 innings. I know that's something you don't see as often, but that's what's made me and that's what I'm going to stick to."

Banister said after the game that Hamels "absolutely" had earned the right to have a strong opinion on such matters, and that nothing is certain beyond previous conversations about the rotation.

"Here's a pitcher that is extremely successful with what he's done, a World Series MVP, there's a lot of skins on the wall, there's a lot of investment in him from myself and this organization," Banister said. "I love the fact that Cole continues to talk about it, explore it, and we'll continue to explore anything that's going to help these guys get better in this organization. I love the fact that these guys have opinions on it -- they should. It's investment in themselves and in this team."

Beyond making his argument for a traditional rotation, Hamels spent Saturday working to throw all his pitches, unlike in previous early-spring outings. He allowed two solo homers and two doubles, walked one and struck out two.

Hamels missed with his first pitch of the game before allowing a 1-0 leadoff homer to Joe Panik. Hamels followed with a strikeout, a walk and an RBI double to Nick Hundley before getting two groundouts.

In the second inning, Hamels allowed a one-out homer to Gregor Blanco and a ringing double to Panik, but he got a groundout to strand the Giants' second baseman. Hamels emerged for the third inning and allowed a single before striking out Hundley, his last batter.

"In years past, I'd take a slower approach and just try to establish fastballs and changeups," Hamels said. "This year, I'm really trying to get everything out of the way and start working with it so that I definitely have a better feel. It was good that I threw all my pitches, and obviously I got to see what I need to work on."

Dave Sessions is a contributor to MLB.com.

Texas Rangers, Cole Hamels