What a lot of people don’t know is that in 2013, Cole Hamels, the Philadelphia Phillies veteran pitcher now in his seventh season, will be making the first Opening Day start of his career.
Whether it be Brett Myers, who was chosen over Hamels to start in 2007, or Roy Halladay, who has held the reins as the team’s top ace since 2010, Hamels has found himself playing second fiddle for most of his major league career.
The Californian, born and raised in the Phillies’ farm system, made his major league debut in 2006 as a mid-season rotation replacement. Even though his stats have been good, it may have been the 2008 postseason that really cemented Hamels as an ace.
In five starts, one shortened by a rain delay, Hamels was near flawless. He pitched no less than six innings and gave up no more than two runs in each start. He became the postseason No. 1, going 4-0 with just an 1.80 ERA.
Off of stats like that, there was no doubt Hamels would be the ace entering the 2009 season. Unfortunately, an injury sidelined Hamels, who was unable to make his first start until April 10th. Hamels finished with a rather pedestrian 10-11 record and was replaced as the team’s top pitcher by the mid-season acquisition of the Cleveland Indians ace, Cliff Lee.
At this point, Hamels was once again penciled in to make his first Opening Day start, but that was short-lived. Quickly after dumping Lee, the Phillies pulled the trigger on the guy they wanted all along, Roy Halladay.
Halladay began 2010, 2011 and 2012 on the mound. In fact, had he not been dealing with injury and a declining fastball, he likely would have been on the mound to start 2013 as well.
But he isn’t, Hamels is.
No longer a kid, the now 29-year-old Hamels is poised and ready to step into the role that has since eluded him. He is ready to be this team’s ace.
And it only makes sense. Hamels is coming off of a strong spring and strong 2012, where he pitched as the third guy in the rotation and finished in the top five in Cy Young voting with a stellar 17-6 record and 3.05 ERA. He received the big money in the off-season and now that he is going to be paid like an ace, he seems to have developed the confidence to play like an ace.
It is finally his turn and considering that he will be with this team for the foreseeable future, it is time to prove that he can and will be the guy the Phillies go to in a Game 7 or to stop a losing streak. This is Hamels’ job now and he is finally ready to take it.