A sheepish grin appeared on Cole Hamels' face when somebody broached the subject of his recently completed five-game suspension.
"I'm past that," Hamels said, almost as if he was reading from a cue card.
Clearly, the 28-year-old lefty spent part of his five-day reprieve getting some media relations guidance. While that was probably a wise move, considering the fallout from his comments about his decision to hit Nationals prospect Bryce Harper with a pitch, Hamels showed Sunday why everybody's focus will soon return to his immense talent. In a 3-2 victory over the Padres, he held San Diego to one run in seven innings while striking out five to improve his record to 5-1 and lower his ERA to 2.28. It was the sixth straight start in which he held an opponent under three runs in at least six innings of work. Since allowing four runs in 51/3 innings in his first start of the season, Hamels has allowed just nine runs with 40 strikeouts and nine walks in 42 innings over six starts.
While general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. has begun to use some of the same tough talk he employed in 2010, when the Phillies hovered around .500 throughout the first four months of the season, he might think twice about trading Hamels even if he does decide to become a "seller." Over the last calendar year, Hamels' numbers (2.67 ERA, 8.1 K/9, 1.8 BB/9, 0.997 WHIP) are every bit as impressive as those posted by Roy Halladay (2.53 ERA, 7.5 K/9, 1.4 BB/9, 1.027 WHIP) and Cliff Lee (2.02 ERA, 8.5 K/9, 1.6 BB/9, 0.955 WHIP).
Plus, Hamels is five years younger than Lee, and seven years younger than Halladay. (Halladay and Lee have limited no-trade protection in their contracts.)
At this point, it is still difficult to envision the 16-19 Phillies reaching a juncture where they have given up on contending before the trade deadline, mostly because the rotation figures to keep them competitive in most games. Sunday, Hamels showed little rust from his five-day suspension, which only served to move his regularly scheduled start back a day, thanks to the day off the Phillies enjoyed on Thursday. The lefty was not allowed to dress in uniform or be in the clubhouse or dugout during the games for which he was suspended, meaning he was not at the team meeting that Charlie Manuel called after his team was swept by the Mets.
"I was here every day working out with the guys," Hamels said. "Obviously, I couldn't be here for the game, but I kept the same routine as much as I could. Being around them 24/7, maybe I needed a break from them anyway."
Former Phillies second-round draft pick and Archbishop Carroll star Mike Costanzo was promoted to the major leagues for the first time in his career on Saturday after the Reds placed Scott Rolen on the disabled list. The 28-year-old Costanzo was the Phillies' second-round pick, and their first overall selection, in the 2005 draft. Costanzo was the darling of the local media on draft day, thanks to his local connections. In 2007, he hit .270/.368/.490 with 27 home runs at double-A Reading, but was traded to Houston as part of the Brad Lidge deal that offseason. Shortly thereafter, the Astros shipped him to Baltimore in a deal for Miguel Tejada.
Costanzo was released by the Orioles after hitting just .202 at double A and triple A in 2009. He started the 2010 season playing for the Camden Riversharks, but was signed by the Reds. This year, he was hitting .303/.402/.541 with six home runs and 37 strikeouts in 127 plate appearances at double A and triple A.