Few people have been involved in trade rumors more than Cole Hamels, yet on Monday the lefthander will be starting the Phillies' season opener at Citizens Bank Park against the Boston Red Sox.
Hamels has seen all the dire projections for the Phillies, picked as the consensus worst team in the NL East, if not the entire National League.
During a news conference before Friday's exhibition game against the Pittsburgh Pirates, as the Phillies returned to Citizens Bank Park, Hamels put on a good face, measuring his words carefully, making sure to project the most positive of images.
He insisted that being the subject of rumors since last season's trade deadline has taken no toll on him whatsoever.
"Me personally, no," Hamels said. "I think to be a starter you have to be selfish to be able to get this far. As much as it looks like it can have a negative impact, we're the ones out on the mound having to make a pitch and having to decide what we're going to do."
A year ago, he performed like one of the best pitchers in baseball. He had arguably the most impressive regular season of his career, which is saying something since he is a three-time all-star.
Hamels was 9-9, which shows how misleading a pitcher's won-loss record can be.
He had a career-best 2.46 ERA, while striking out 198 in 2042/3 innings.
Hamels allowed three earned runs or fewer in his last 23 starts and finished sixth in the National League Cy Young Award voting.
The lefthander insisted that he can blot out all the outside noise, and last year that was obviously the case.
"I'm trying to make sure that everything that I do outside and off the field is going to allow me to be the best pitcher that I can be and to allow me to be an accountable type person in this organization and on this team," he said.
Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg has been impressed by how Hamels has been able to block out all the rumors this spring. While Hamels in the past has stated his desire to be on a contender, he hasn't acted like a person with one foot out the door, according to his manager.
"He is one of the players who was talked about a lot not only in the offseason but part-way through camp," Sandberg said, alluding to all the trade rumors. "All the veteran guys that have been in that boat have been very good as far as sticking to business and focusing on being a Philadelphia Phillie right now and helping the team."
Sandberg calls the 31-year-old Hamels "one of the leaders on the team."
Hamels said he is enjoying himself with the Phillies. And he vowed not to put any more pressure on himself. The expectations for Hamels to throw a gem each start will be enormous, especially since the rest of the rotation has plenty to prove.
"It's just going out there and fulfilling your obligation, and that is kind of what I've been trying to do no matter what the circumstance," Hamels said.
He even had a prediction, although it was less than a bold one.
"We're going to compete for the next six months and things are going to be more enjoyable," he said.
Whether Hamels is with the team at the end of those six months, to share in the enjoyment, clearly remains to be seen.