ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - Cole Hamels removed his spikes, grabbed his bag, and headed for the car yesterday afternoon at the Naimoli Complex.
He has looked happier.
Hamels, who struggled in his last two Grapefruit League starts, pitched in a minor-league game against the Tampa Bay Devil Rays because he wanted to work on his mechanics. But in 32/3 innings, Hamels allowed four hits, four runs, four walks and a home run. He struck out one.
"I guess the whole point of spring training is to get your work in, but you can't just keep getting work in," said Hamels, who is 0-2 with a 7.00 ERA in three Grapefruit League starts and allowed seven earned runs in his last two starts against big-league teams.
"You finally have to come to a point where you're good to go, and you're ready to pitch continuously," Hamels said. "Getting the reps in and the opportunities with your games and everything, there has to be that point where things are starting to click. I think I'm still trying to find that."
Hamels is scheduled for two more starts this spring: Sunday against the Minnesota Twins at Bright House Networks Field in Clearwater and March 30 against the Boston Red Sox at Citizens Bank Park.
He is scheduled to pitch the second game of the season for the Phillies on April 4 against the Atlanta Braves at Citizens Bank Park, although Phillies manager Charlie Manuel has made nothing official yet. Manuel said he still could shuffle the rotation, although he admitted he wants to split up his lefthanders.
Yesterday, Hamels threw 80 pitches, 46 for strikes. His lack of efficiency upset him most.
"I know they're moving the pitch count up," Hamels said. "I don't want to go out there and throw as many pitches to every hitter, just so I can get deep into the ball game. I need to be up and down in those opportunities."
But don't panic, folks. Hamels isn't. Neither is pitching coach Rich Dubee.
"He's worried about numbers. I don't worry about numbers here," Dubee said. "I saw a lot of good things. First, his arm speed is getting there. Second, his arm angle is much better. He lost his tempo and lost his angle at times, but for the most part I thought he repeated his delivery better today. He established a much better temp and angle to his fastball."
His fastball hovered around 88 to 91 m.p.h. His fastball typically travels about 93 m.p.h. during the season.
"The main focus was establishing the fastball and just getting a better feel with just letting it come out of my hand a little better and getting a better angle," Hamels said. "I think I was able to do that. I think I was able to go inside a little bit better and outside and hit locations a lot easier than the past couple games.
"That's a big key for me just because then I can get to the next step, which is go out there throw strikes and make it past 32/3 innings."
Hamels worked Joel Guzman inside until he hit a two-run home run to left-center field in the bottom of the third inning.
"He threw a change-up to a guy with a slow bat, and he hit a home run," Dubee said. "So be it."
Hamels was 9-8 with a 4.08 ERA in his rookie season last year. He went 2-5 with a 5.98 ERA in his first 11 starts last season but 7-3 with a 2.70 ERA in his last 12.
The Phillies expect more of those second half numbers this season.
So does Hamels.
"I feel like I keep going up the ladder," he said. "That's obviously the main focus for anything, including myself. Unfortunately, just for me, just because I like to compete, I like to succeed every time I'm out there. But I guess that's not the case the past couple games."
Hamels wants to throw a no-hitter every time, doesn't he?
"No-hitter? He wants to throw a perfect game," Dubee said.