Left-hander Cole Hamels was back pitching in a minor league game Tuesday, and once again the young hitters gave him something to work on his next time out.
A group of Kansas City Royals minor leaguers scored four first-inning runs against Hamels, who failed to record an out before the inning was halted after a walk to the fifth batter. The inning started with an error, a stolen base, a broken-bat single, a walk and a three-run homer.
The competitor in Hamels didn’t like the results, but he knows it’s spring training and he was still able to accomplish what he was seeking to do. He threw all of his pitches, a change from past springs in an effort to have more urgency at the start of the season.
“Being able to throw all of my pitches to each part of the zone, I think that’s something that was really key, especially off-speed pitches,” Hamels said. “Like always, I still need to fine-tune location.”
Hamels’ takeaway from the first inning is that he needs to be more focused early in his next start. He also had trouble spotting his fastball on the inner half to right-handed hitters, something that he said will be ironed out by Opening Day.
“I know it’s something I’ll be able to do eventually,” Hamels said. “I think that’s what will be the focus of my bullpen. It’s getting comfortable with guys in the box, getting an understanding of where to pick your location and throw. You don’t necessarily want to hit guys, but if you’re throwing balls over the middle because you’re not quite getting in, you’re going to have to find that middle ground. I think that’s where I’m at.”
Throwing all his pitches this early in camp is something he hopes will help him be better once the season starts. He has a 3.95 April ERA in his career, the highest of any month.
“This year it’s more coming in and trying to grind a little more during spring training when I’m actually pitching in the games,” Hamels said. “I think that comes with throwing the pitches early. In previous springs, I’ve slowly broken out each pitch every week. This spring I’m pitching out the pitches right at the beginning.”