CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Nobody has said a word to Cole Hamels about Opening Day, which is fine with him.
Pitching the season opener would be nice, but …
"I've never really thought about it," he said after pitching two scoreless innings Saturday in the Phillies' Grapefruit League opener against Houston at Bright House Field. "It's one game, one appearance and then you're back into the normal baseball atmosphere. I've never really looked at it as this big sort of ordeal. I've always valued the playoffs. When you have to lead off the playoff game and a series, I think that's pretty important. I think that's kind of where it's at. If you do get that honor, you just go out and stick to business and try to win a ballgame."
Hamels is expected to start Opening Day on April 1, but that is more than a month away. Saturday simply represented the first step toward what Hamels hopes is a late run into October. That is what he is preparing for, and that is what is on his mind.
It is why he said he declined to participate in the World Baseball Classic.
"I don't think it's the smartest thing for pitchers to do," he said. "Ultimately, I think a lot of the pitchers have the right idea, too. You don't see any of the big-time guys up there. I think ultimately our goal is to win a World Series, not the WBC. That's something I'm always going to keep on track, that's first and foremost -- winning the World Series. I'm going to do everything I can for the Phillies and this organization and my teammates."
So Hamels also acknowledged he could step into more of a leadership role this season. Phillies right-hander Roy Halladay said earlier this week it's Hamels' time to start Opening Day. He also said it's time for him to become more vocal as a leader. Those comments came before closer Jonathan Papelbon said he hadn't seen any leadership in the clubhouse since he has been here.
"I'm almost 30, so I should probably kick it in gear with the leadership role," Hamels said. "I have been here for a long time and I've seen some leaders leave, like Pat [Burrell], [Jamie] Moyer and Jayson Werth and Aaron Rowand -- those guys were big-time leaders. You can't expect new guys to come in and lead a team. They have to feel it out. I agree with Pap. Last year, I wasn't fulfilling my end of the bargain either. We are all guilty. We all have to step up and take a role and a presence in this team and get back to what we're capable of doing, which is winning."
Hamels used to talk about throwing perfect games and winning Cy Young Awards, but that is on the back burner. He said he sees a sense of urgency in the clubhouse this spring as some players sense the window of opportunity to win closing.
So the Cy Young Award? Eh, that would be a nice bonus.
"I'd be lying if I didn't say it would be nice to have one," he said. "I would trade Cy Youngs for World Series rings any day of the week, and I think [Cliff Lee and Halladay] would, too. That's the reason why we play baseball -- to win championships, not a plaque to put on the wall."