Follow the new leader: Hamels sets example
Veteran left-hander opens first camp as Rangers' ace and mentor
SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Cole Hamels can go quickly through the names of outstanding pitchers that were on the Phillies' staff while he was in Philadelphia. At the top of the list are Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Roy Oswalt, Brett Myers and Jamie Moyer. Pedro Martinez was even there for part of the 2009 season.
"I've been very fortunate to be in front of some of the best pitchers in this era," Hamels said.
One lesson they taught him?
"They never let you see that the game got out of hand and they never let the game get out of hand," Hamels said. "I think that's what it was. They never really said anything, you could just see it in their mannerisms. They really thought they were never out of the game. They never thought they weren't qualified to be the best. They thought they were the best and you could see it and the way they went about their business."
Hamels learned from them all as he rose to become one of the best left-handed starting pitchers in the game. Now, having been dealt to Texas at the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline last season, Hamels is in a different position.
Hamels has a chance to become a mentor to the Rangers' young pitchers and pass along what he has learned in his 10-year career.
"You can kind of hide in the shadows when you have those caliber of pitchers in the [Phillies'] rotation," Hamels said. "It's always nice to be able to ask them questions; now I'm being asked questions. I'm as much of an open book as I possibly can to the young guys. If going out there and making them push a little bit harder and letting them know I can still compete with them even though I might not be 21 or 22.
"I was there at one point and probably doing the same thing they are. It's just a matter of being able to explain the experiences and the knowledge I have, especially right now, because this is the best time. We're around each other for hours every day."
Derek Holland has already attached himself to Hamels and forged a close bond. Others are welcome to do the same, even if it is simply watching Hamels go about his daily routine.
"They don't need to do exactly what Cole Hamels does," Rangers manager Jeff Banister said. "It's just the idea of how he goes about his routine: the intense execution and the discipline. If our young guys can watch that and put that into their routines, they will be ahead of the game."
Hamels and Colby Lewis are the elder statesmen of the Rangers' pitching staff. Holland has his own credentials, but he also has had his struggles too. Then there are Martin Perez, Chi Chi Gonzalez, Nick Martinez, Anthony Ranaudo, Nick Tepesch and others. All could benefit in some degree from both Hamels and Lewis.
"It's about being able to have a good mix with the young guys because it helps push the older guys,' Hamels said. "You have Colby and I, and we don't want to show them we're not up to par with what they're bringing, whether it's physical or mental. The thing we do have above them is the knowledge and experience, and that's what we want to pass down."
This is Hamels' first spring for the Rangers. A year ago, he was in Spring Training with a Phillies team in desperate need of a youth makeover. Rumors about Hamels being traded were rampant from the moment he arrived in Florida.
"It's bound to happen, and I think a lot of us in that clubhouse understood what would transpire, what the direction was," Hamels said. "You're just kind of playing for the next step. It's hard to really commit in a sense to going out and trying to win a championship, which you do every season. That's the ultimate goal. But when people say things and almost put you already behind the eight ball, it makes it very difficult for everybody to see the bigger picture."
Hamels went 7-1 with a 3.66 ERA in 12 starts for Texas, helping the Rangers run down the Astros for the American League West title.
They gave up five good prospects for Hamels, but he is signed through 2018 with a club option for '19. The Rangers have a successful veteran leader of their rotation for at least three seasons.
"Oh, it's nice," Hamels said. "It's a great way to go into a season knowing you're fully committed to being here for the long haul and bringing a championship to Texas. And that's what I'm trying to do, and it's not easy so you want to be 100 percent in because that's the way you're able to accomplish your goals."