PHILADELPHIA – No doubt a few Phillies fans already hear AC/DC’s “Thunderstruck” blaring next month over the Citizens Bank Park sound system.
It was Cole Hamels’ warmup music for 10 seasons with the Phillies.
Hamels, 37, is a free agent, but he wants to pitch for a contender again. He held a showcase for teams on Friday afternoon in Texas, including the Phillies. Hamels threw two 30-pitch bullpen sessions with a five-minute break in between. His fastball averaged 88.5 mph, but touched 90 mph. He threw each of his secondary pitches. They had good action, although his location wasn’t sharp.
Friday could be considered the beginning of Spring Training for him, so velocity and command are expected to improve with time.
“You know he knows how to compete,” Phillies manager Joe Girardi said on Friday afternoon. “That's what you know he knows how to do. He knows how to pitch. He knows how to handle the Philadelphia market.”
Knowing how to handle Philly is a nice intangible, huh?
“I think so,” Girardi said. “If it was to happen, I hope it would be a huge addition. We would want him to come in and go undefeated. I know he was a fierce competitor and that never leaves people.”
Hamels pitched just 3 1/3 innings last season with Atlanta because of triceps and shoulder issues. He is pitching pain-free these days, but he will need time to build his arm strength and fine-tune his command.
It makes Hamels probably a month away from being ready to pitch in a big league game.
Nobody expects Hamels to be the 2008 version of himself, when he won World Series and NLCS MVP honors. But based on how he threw Friday, there are indications he could be an upgrade to the Phillies’ pitching staff.
The Phillies' rotation opened the second half on Friday with a 4.15 ERA, which ranked ninth in the National League, and a 3.95 FIP, which ranked seventh. Zack Wheeler (2.26 ERA) has been brilliant, and Zach Eflin (3.88 ERA) has been solid, but Aaron Nola (4.53 ERA) is struggling, and Vince Velasquez (5.35 ERA) and Matt Moore (5.25 ERA) have been unable to pitch deep into games, putting pressure on the bullpen.
Moore, it should be noted, has a 3.06 ERA in 17 2/3 innings in four starts since rejoining the rotation.
But will the Phillies make a competitive offer, if interested? Hamels wanted to return to the organization before the 2020 season, but he signed a one-year, $18 million contract with the Braves. A source at the time said the Phillies offered about half that amount.
If other teams like what they saw on Friday, they will take a run at him, too.
The Phillies have made a move like this in the past. They signed free-agent right-hander Pedro Martinez following a workout in the Dominican Republic in early July 2009. He made three starts in the Minor Leagues for the Phillies: July 26, July 31 and Aug. 5 before he made his Phillies’ debut on Aug. 12.
Martinez went 5-1 with a 3.63 ERA in nine starts.
“Yeah, I mean, that’d be great,” Phillies catcher J.T. Realmuto said Tuesday at the All-Star Game, when asked about the Phillies watching Hamels’ showcase. “He’s a Philly legend, so if they see something they like in the showcase, I don’t see why it wouldn’t be an option.”
Hamels thew his last pitch for the Phillies in July 2015, when he no-hit the Cubs at Wrigley Field. They traded him to the Rangers a few days later. The Phillies got Jorge Alfaro in the deal. They traded Alfaro to Miami in February 2019 to get Realmuto.
Could Hamels pitch to Realmuto next month? Time will tell.