Cole Hamels isn’t old, having turned 32 just after Christmas, but he’s getting baseball old.
Adrian Beltre, who turns 37 in April only days after starting his 19th season, is baseball old. Hamels, who will be pitching his 11th season, isn’t there yet, but he sees some signs of aging.
The body, Hamels admitted, doesn’t recover as it once did, back in the glory days of his early 20s.
The rookies get younger and younger each year, and it gets harder and harder to keep up with them.
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As a father of three, one of Hamels’ main off-season workouts is child herding.
Hamels, of course, isn’t about to be put out to pasture. He has three years left on his contract, with an option for a fourth, and he is driven to retain his stud status as one of the best left-handers in baseball.
2 Shutouts for Cole Hamels last season, July 25 in a no-hitter against the Cubs and Oct. 4 in the division-clincher against the Angels
But with being a veteran comes a responsibility to pass along his knowledge, as others did for him. Brett Myers, Roy Oswalt, Cliff Lee, Roy Halladay and Jamie Moyer all played a hand in mentoring Hamels, who likes the idea of becoming a mentor to, say, Chi Chi Gonzalez and Nick Martinez.
They will need his help this season as the Rangers wait for Yu Darvish to be cleared for takeoff. But the Rangers also need Hamels to be the ace they believe they acquired at last year’s trade deadline and the pitcher who helped the Rangers go 10-0 in his final 10 starts.
So, here he is at another spring training fine-tuning himself for another season and another playoff run. Hamels warned that the results might not be pretty the next six weeks, but it’s all part of the process.
Jason Garrett would be pleased.
“Spring is kind of funny because your last memory of competition, you’re probably at your highest peak,” Hamels said Saturday. “Everything is dialed in, you’re throwing every pitch you have spot on and then you come into spring and you’re all over the place. You’ve got to develop that muscle memory again.
“I know what it takes, how many reps I need. And how many reps against hitters that I’ll need before I’m really locked in and know I can go out there and compete at the highest level and succeed.”
His No. 1 goal is to give his team a chance each time out, as he did after losing his first two Rangers starts last season. But then he carried them to the American League West title, including a complete-game victory in the clincher on the final day of the season.
Next on his goals list is the 200-inning plateau, which he has reached six consecutive seasons. He logged 225 2/3 innings last season, including the postseason.
Hamels, though, has had to alter how to get his arm and body to October. He dealt with biceps tendinitis before the 2014 season, which knocked him a month off schedule. Though he finished with 204 2/3 innings, he learned that his body was changing and crafted workouts to suit that.
Cole Hamels has failed to pitch fewer than 200 innings once during a season in which he made at least 30 starts. It came in 2009, when he tossed 193 2/3 innings over 32 starts.
There was a mental change, too, as in the realization that he needed to start listening to what his body was telling him.
“That’s just kind of the wake-up call; you can’t push it too fast, too soon,” Hamels said. “Recovery is going to be a little bit heavier on my thoughts. I know how many days or how many hours it’s going to take before I’m going to feel really good again.
“I think it’s important to have open communication. I want to compete with the young guys as much as possible, but if there is a day where you’re not feeling up to it, you don’t need to push, because you don’t need the injuries.”
The Rangers have had enough with the pitching injuries. The most telling part about the rotation’s health the past two seasons is that Colby Lewis, with a fake hip and on a knee that needed surgery, is the only starter who has avoided the disabled list.
Hamels’ track record strongly suggests he will go wire to wire, though not without aches and pains that all players experience during the course of a 162-game marathon.
That’s what happens with three kids. When you’re running them around you kind of miss meals.
Cole Hamels, who said he has lost weight since last season
Among the many things Hamels can teach young players are work ethic and how to manage a season.
“They don’t need to go do what Cole Hamels does,” manager Jeff Banister said. “It’s the idea of how he goes about his routine, that he has a routine and how intensely he executes his routine and how disciplined he is to it.
“We throw the term work ethic around very easily. The reality is, is it just work or are you really focused in on your work? When you watch Cole Hamels, he cares about every facet of what he does daily. It’s precise.”
Because of it, Hamels will be well-oiled machine by Opening Day. He plans to show that this spring to the young pitchers who look up to him for guidance.
But only after obeying the commands of his body, which is getting baseball old, and sticking to his process.
“Being a little bit older and you have these young guys coming in, every year they’re bigger, stronger and throw harder and can run faster,” Hamels said. “It’s impressive to see and it’s good for us, because it keeps pushing us and I like to be pushed.
“I’m as much of an open book as I possibly can be to the young guys, and I’m going out there and making them push a little bit harder and letting them know I can still compete with them even though I might not be 21 or 22.”