Cole Hamels is closer but the Texas Rangers haven’t seen the best the veteran left-hander has to offer.
The 31-year-old makes his fifth start for the Rangers in Friday’s series opener against the Baltimore Orioles, who are neck and neck with Texas for the second wild-card spot.
He’s coming off his best start with the Rangers, picking up his first Texas win after holding the Tigers to two runs on eight hits in six innings.
“I haven’t really been able to be myself or portray the type of pitcher I am out on the field as much as I’m capable of,” said Hamels, who is still forced to keep his left leg wrapped after a groin strain in his third start with Texas.
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Meanwhile, Hamels said, he has quickly assimilated himself into the Rangers’ clubhouse, helping to keep guys motivated for the stretch run and fitting in nicely.
“I’ve tried to do everything I can in the clubhouse, if just being another part trying to motivate guys or give guys that extra jump, then that’s what I’m trying to do until I can fully convert who I am out on the field where they can really see what I can do,” he said.
Besides dealing with his groin issue, Hamels is still in the process of adjusting his familiar routine with new surroundings, new catchers, new stadium and new league. He’s not using any of it as an excuse, but knows pitchers are especially creatures of habit.
“A routine is what gives you the confidence and the certain comfort knowing how to prepare for the game the right way,” he said. “Knowing the workout routine with the trainers and what I have access to, sort of develops the mental strength, along with the physical strength, that you’re capable of going out there with your best stuff.”
He has thrown to current catchers Chris Gimenez and Bobby Wilson and to injured catchers Carlos Corporan and Robinson Chirinos in bullpen sessions. That’s important to develop a good relationship, he said, “so that we don’t have to second-guess each other with pitches in crucial situations.”
Hamels logged more than 200 innings six times with the Phillies. In his first four starts with the Rangers, he’s gone 7 2/3, 6, 7 and 6 innings. Hamels hopes he’s on the verge of going deeper.
“I want to be able to pitch nine innings. That’s what I strive to do every game,” he said. “I need to be that guy that goes out and pitches eight or nine innings every five days and kind of give that bullpen a breather and obviously win ballgames for the team.”
Odor still out
Second baseman Rougned Odor is expected to miss another game or two with a healing fingernail on his right middle finger.
Odor ripped much of the nail off the finger fielding a grounder in Tuesday’s game. His finger still looked a little swollen Thursday. He hasn’t yet attempted to throw or hit with the injury.
Right-hander Nick Martinez was recalled from Triple A Round Rock to give the bullpen another long man option.
Right-hander Spencer Patton was optioned to the minors after allowing five runs without retiring a hitter Wednesday night. Martinez has primarily been a starter the past two seasons.
“Any way I can help the team,” Martinez said. “I think this is a good opportunity, especially as we get near a playoff push. I don’t think it’ll change much [in how I approach hitters]. If I’m going to be a long guy it’s kind of like starting, so I’ll probably just stick to that routine. I’ll be ready when my name is called, it doesn’t matter.”
The biggest difference, he said, is controlling your adrenaline when your name is called in the bullpen.
“There’s a really good team camaraderie here. There’s a comfort. You have to be able to have fun. You’re able to get on guys in a joking manner but also in a serious manner and guys aren’t offended. That’s how you have to have that sort of bond.” — Hamels on joining the Rangers clubhouse.
Stefan Stevenson, 817-390-7760