"[Scranton/Wilkes-Barre manager John Russell] called me into the office, and I
figured, 'OK, the only reason you get called into the office is to get yelled at or to get
good news,' and I didn't do anything wrong."
International League opponents may throw a party to celebrate Hamels' departure, a
bash nearly as big as the bash thrown by the Phillies faithful, who have been waiting, and
"All of our baseball people feel like he's ready, that he can help us, that he can
pitch in a big-league rotation," said manager Charlie Manuel. "I'm all for anything that
can help our club."
That help comes after the 22-year-old Hamels baffled Triple-A hitters, compiling a 0.39 ERA and
allowing just 10 hits in 23 innings, with 36 strikeouts against one walk. After watching
Hamels blow away the competition for three straight starts, the Phillies couldn't wait.
The thought isn't that Hamels is going to just be OK. The feeling is that he's ready to dominate -- now.
But no pressure.
"Other than the physical and natural ability, you look for presence and composure.
We don't have any reservation that he'll be able to deal with a crucial part of the game,"
said general manager Pat Gillick. "He hasn't faced too many bumps. We felt we needed to
bring him up because the inconsistent part of our staff has been our starters."
But what about that pressure?
"I'll tell him to go out and throw about 10 shutouts," Manuel said, with a laugh.
"From there, I'll evaluate him. I'll probably hand him the ball, say, 'Go get 'em, kid,' and
sit back and watch him pitch for a while."
"I plan on staying," Hamels said. "That's my main goal. I want to be here as long
as I can. It's one of the keys to motivate me. This has always been a dream, and now it's
becoming a realistic dream."
The prized left-hander, selected in the first round of the June 2003 First-Year
Player Draft, will start Friday in Cincinnati, with Ryan Madson returning to the bullpen.
The Phillies will have to make a roster move, likely after Thursday's game with the Mets.
The odd man out could be either Julio Santana or Geoff Geary, though Geary is the pitcher
with Minor League options.
Hamels' inclusion gives the Phillies three former first-round picks in the rotation that were
developed in-house, joining Brett Myers and Gavin Floyd. That excites Mike Arbuckle, the
team's assistant general manager, scouting and player development.
"It's exciting from the standpoint that I think we can have a real winning pitching staff," Arbuckle said. "That's how you build a winner. You don't go out and sign umpteen
free agents and succeed long-term. You win by developing players in your own system and
adding a piece here and there."
Hamels is a heck of a piece.
The Phillies have long believed that Hamels will be a stud in their rotation for
many years, but injuries have hindered his development. Brilliant when on the mound, the
southpaw has pitched just 152 professional innings since 2003, with only 35 coming with
Clearwater and Reading last season.
Health was the main factor in the team's decision to start Hamels in the warmer
weather at Class A Clearwater rather than colder Pennsylvania. Hamels toyed with
the Florida State League, compiling a 1.77 ERA in four starts and striking out 29 in 20 1/3 innings.
Asked to find a similar pitcher in terms of talent and mental makeup, Gillick
brought up Dave Steib, a converted outfielder who had a similarly short Minor League
career, followed by a successful big-league one. Pressed for a lefty, he came up with Jimmy Key.
"Cole has better stuff than Jimmy," Gillick said. "The longer I'm in this game, that's what becomes more important. The mental part of the game is much more important than the physical part as I get older. Before, it was about 80-20 [percent] for the physical, but now it's about 60-40."
But how many pitchers have that rare combination of mental toughness outstanding stuff at such a young age?
"Not many," Gillick said.
The Phillies believe they just called one up.