LOS ANGELES - The beginning of a new season is not often kind to Cole Hamels. There was 2009, when, fresh from a championship, Hamels allowed seven runs to Colorado in fewer than four innings with diminished fastball velocity. There was 2011, when Phillies fans booed the lefthander at Citizens Bank Park because he could not finish the third inning against New York.
There is nothing notable about each of his last five season debuts, four of which were Phillies losses, a trend Hamels will try to reverse Wednesday at Dodger Stadium. The $144 million ace is ready for his unveiling, albeit three weeks late.
"I just want better results," Hamels said. "I don't want those opening-day results. They haven't been too pretty the past couple of years. I'm looking to make amends."
Hamels has a 5.89 ERA in his season-opening starts (excluding his major-league debut in 2006). The numbers are even worse in the last five seasons: Hamels has a 9.55 ERA. His longest first start in that span was 51/3 innings in 2012, which resulted in a 6-2 loss to Miami.
He pitched a total of 212/3 innings in his season debuts since 2009. The opposition mounted 38 hits - six home runs - and walked eight times against 23 strikeouts.
Hamels missed four turns through the rotation as he built arm strength after a bout with biceps tendinitis. Manager Ryne Sandberg was excited to see his full rotation on display for the first time. He had no regrets about the way Hamels was handled.
"No question," Sandberg said. "Smart. [We want to] have him for the long haul."
Hamels' last appearance at Dodger Stadium was in Game 1 of the National League Championship Series in 2009.
"He'll be a little more amped up in this setting than down [in the minors], but he got his work in," Sandberg said. "He was really working on spotting his fastball in the last couple of outings."
Sandberg said closer Jonathan Papelbon was feeling better Tuesday after flu symptoms rendered him unavailable Monday. The Phillies did not require a closer Monday. Had the situation arisen, Sandberg said, Jake Diekman was his choice. . . . Cliff Lee has a 30.67 strikeout-to-walk ratio (92 strikeouts, three walks) over his last 10 starts, dating from September. His 10 strikeouts in Monday's 7-0 win marked his 30th career double-digit strikeout game and 22d with the Phillies. . . . Carlos Ruiz, who entered the game with zero RBIs, batted fourth for the first time in his career Monday. All he did was notch three extra-base hits and drive in four runs. Ruiz said he made a mechanical adjustment to his swing before the game.