Hamels came into camp this year with high expectations after compiling 145 strikeouts in 132 1/3 innings last season. But concerns began to mount when his control was off early this spring.
"I had those three weeks there where I was wondering if I was going to get there," said Hamels, who entered Sunday with a 7.00 ERA in three Major League spring starts, along with an outing for the Triple-A farm club in which he allowed four runs on four hits over 3 2/3 innings.
On Sunday, he proved he definitely was "there."
Aside from two mistake pitches in which he left his fastball out over the plate resulting in solo home runs by Rondell White and Luis Castillo, Hamels, who had five strikeouts without allowing a walk, displayed improvement on both his delivery and his command.
"The ball was coming out of my hand a lot better," said Hamels, who left to a standing ovation after retiring the first two batters in the seventh inning. "My timing was a lot better. I was trying to go inside more with my fastball and, besides the two homers, I started doing so a lot better through the course of the game. When you can establish that with the outside fastball, then you can pitch with more control."
Hamels, who tossed 90 pitches, 58 of them strikes, said that his rough start this spring probably benefited him more than if he had come out of the gates blazing.
"When you start planning and things go well for you, then good for you, but when they don't, it makes you work harder," said Hamels. "You figure out where things are going wrong. It makes you work harder. You get things right by working on things you might not normally do. I'm just glad that it took only three weeks to get right instead of three months. I'm definitely ready for the season to start now."
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As is the Phils' offense, as evidenced by the output on Sunday, when they pounded out 17 hits against Twins pitching.
Chase Utley became the first Phillie this spring to have a multi-homer game, with a three-run shot in the third and a solo home run in the fifth, which ignited a five-run inning. Ryan Howard broke out of his 0-for-17 slump with a hard-hit single during the fifth. Hamels helped his own cause in the fifth, as well, contributing a run-producing double.
"It's tough during the last week of spring to have that intensity, so we're just trying to get all the kinks out offensively," said Utley, who finished 3-for-4 with two runs scored and four RBIs. "Once we're back in Philly, the adrenaline will be a lot better."
Considering the way they looked on Sunday, if the Phillies have more adrenaline left in their tanks, then it's a scary proposition for their opponents.
Williams helping pitchers at the plate: Hamels had a single to go along with his RBI double and said all the credit goes to coach Jimy Williams.
The 23-year-old pitcher said that Williams has been working diligently with the entire starting staff on how to approach each at-bat, and the work has apparently paid off.
"I feel more comfortable at the plate, and I kind of know what's going to happen," said Hamels, who hit .114 in 44 at-bats last year. "A lot of pitchers go for the big swing, trying to hit that home run, but Jimy's taught us to be relaxed up there and shorten up your swing by going the other way with the ball. He's also helped us understand how to have quick hands, so if the pitcher comes inside, you can pull it down the line."
Hamels noted that Williams has also helped them understand the importance of being a threat at the No. 9 spot in the batting order.
Another added incentive for Hamels is the side wager the pitchers have this year regarding their batting performance.
"The competition isn't on the batting practice, either," quipped Hamels. "Your four o'clock hitter doesn't show up at seven. We don't know what it's going to be yet, but it definitely will be about what we do in games."
Coste-ing along: Chris Coste, who has had to deal with strep throat and a strained right hamstring in the past week, said he is feeling much better and has begun a running routine. He ran from foul pole to foul pole at 60 percent eight times and expects to increase the intensity and duration on Monday.
Gator bites: University of Florida football coach Urban Meyer, who was a 13th-round draft pick of the Braves in 1982, visited the Phillies' clubhouse with his 8-year-old son, Nathan, and spent time talking with Howard, Shane Victorino, Michael Bourn and Rollins. Meyer said Howard, with a few extra pounds, could be a decent defensive end, and Victorino could possibly shine as a tailback. The players took pictures with Meyer and his son and praised the coach for capturing the national championship with a 41-14 win over Ohio State in the Bowl Championship Series title game.
Rollins took advantage of being in the presence of greatness before Meyer and his son exited the locker room.
"Let me shake that championship hand," said Rollins. "Hopefully, we can bring that feeling back up to Philly with us."
Coming up: The Phillies visit the Yankees on Monday for their fourth and last meeting of the 2007 Grapefruit League schedule. Phillies right-hander Zack Segovia (0-1, 2.70 ERA) will make his second start and his fourth appearance of Spring Training in the 1:05 p.m. ET game at Legends Field in Tampa. Segovia, who is battling for a spot in the bullpen, looked sharp against the Yankees when he faced them on Tuesday, allowing one run on five hits over five innings.