11/03/09 2:02 AM EST
Hamels wants ball in Game 7
Phils lefty backs off statements, psyched for potential start
By Mark Bowman / MLB.com
"Who wouldn't want the ball in Game 7?" Hamels said after the Phillies kept their season alive with an 8-6 win over the Yankees on Monday night. "This is the ultimate dream to be able to pitch in the most competitive situation anybody could ever be in -- that would be to be in Game 7 of the World Series. Even though I might not have the best results leading up to it, I've always wanted it."
Hamels' tone and message following Monday's Game 5 victory contradicted the reaction that he displayed when he exited Saturday's Game 3 loss and provided reason to believe that this frustrating season had already made him a beaten man.
"I can't wait for it to end," Hamels said after proving unable to last at least five innings for a second consecutive postseason start. "It's been mentally draining. It's one of those things where, a year in, you just can't wait for a fresh start."
As Hamels spoke on Monday night, he said this wasn't the message that he was intending to send to his teammates or fans. In fact, the 25-year-old left-hander said he's experienced a couple of sleepless nights since being told exactly what he had said.
"When you write the first five lines of a complete sentence, it's hard for everybody else to understand that," Hamels said. "But you know what, I've said some dumb things and I think everybody has. I have to make it clear what I really want to say sometimes. It's hard to play baseball and talk at the same time."
Wanting to set the record straight, Hamels met with Phillies manager Charlie Manuel before Monday's game and told his skipper that he never intended to deliver the message that he was somebody who would give up on the season before it was complete.
"I think Charlie knows me," Hamels said. "He's managed me for quite a few years. I think the only doubt that was left in people's minds was the fans'. That hurts because I love the city of Philadelphia and I play as hard as I possibly can.
Hamels said that he was attempting to say that he was looking forward to the opportunity to enter this year's offseason and find time to reflect. After leading the Phillies to last year's world championship and living amid the hoopla that follows a World Series MVP, he didn't take time to do this last year.
Consequently, Manuel believes that Hamels arrived at Spring Training mentally fatigued. The consequences were evident as the left-hander went 10-11 with a 4.32 ERA during the regular season. "This guy was one of the most focused guys that I've seen in a long time, and he's still got that same ability," Manuel said. "There's no reason why he can't be the same pitcher that we project, and I'm sure he will be."
Manuel hasn't revealed who he will utilize as his starter if his club is able to force a Game 7. But he has at least been given some confidence that Hamels still feels mentally strong enough to take advantage of one last opportunity to take something positive into what he hopes will be a more relaxing offseason.
"Even though I haven't had the same results, I want to be able to sit down and go over what I did and what I learned to make me a better person and a better baseball player," Hamels said.
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.