Philadelphia ace Cole Hamels: 'At this given moment, I'm a Phillie'



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CLEARWATER, Florida — Philadelphia Phillies pitcher Cole Hamels did little Saturday to clear up comments he recently made regarding his eagerness to begin the season with a team in a rebuilding mode.

The 31-year-old Hamels threw a bullpen session on the third day of workouts for Phillies pitchers and catchers. Afterward, he was asked about his remarks.

Hamels, who heard his name mentioned in active trade talks throughout the winter, spent the majority of the time sidestepping the speculation and distancing himself from comments he made this week to USA Today.

"At this given moment, I'm a Phillie," Hamels said Saturday afternoon.

But in an interview published Wednesday, which the pitcher said was from the continuation of a conversation that began in January, Hamels seemed to make his intentions clear. Given the choice, it sounded as if he'd prefer to leave Philadelphia via trade and find a home with a contender.

Hamels was the MVP of the 2008 World Series, when the Phillies won the second title in franchise history.

"I just want to win,'" Hamels said in that story. "That's all. That's all any competitor wants. And I know it's not going to happen here."

Three days later, Hamels was asked to clarify those comments several times while speaking to reporters for nearly a half-hour. Instead, Hamels was anything but clear.

When asked if he'd prefer to be playing on a team that had a better chance of winning, Hamels gave a politically-correct answer, inferring that the Phillies have a chance to contend at the start of any season.

"Right now I know that as we start, I think we're 0-0 — I think everybody's in first place," Hamels said. "So you know it's something where we get to do something special."

"I know from what we all understand, I don't think (the media) has written anything about how we're going to compete and win our division. So it's something for us to take as a group and to go out there and prove to people the type of players that we are," he said.

The Phillies are coming off their second straight 89-loss season. They haven't had a winning record since 2011 and, in 2014, finished in last place for the first time in 14 seasons.

Less than a month into the offseason, current team president Pat Gillick admitted the front office was going into rebuilding mode with the roster and that the team would not contend for at least the next two years.

In December, the Phillies traded former NL MVP Jimmy Rollins, outfielder Marlon Byrd, who led the team in home runs in 2014, and veteran left-handed reliever Antonio Bastardo, too.

Ryan Howard and Jonathan Papelbon were also shopped in trades, but no Phillies player drew more interest from other teams than Hamels, one of baseball's top starting pitchers who is still in his prime. In the last five seasons, the lefty is 60-49 with a 3.00 ERA in 159 games.

After he made it through last summer's trade deadline still with the Phillies, Hamels talked about how every veteran pitcher only has a certain window of opportunity in their career to win. The window appeared to close on Hamels for at least the next year or too, given the front office's direction in the last four months.

Hamels is entering the third season of a six-year, $144 million contract he signed in July 2012. Despite the organization's commitment to rebuild, and his own words from earlier this week, Hamels said Saturday he's content with sticking it out in Philadelphia.

"Any time you hear (rebuilding), I still have a long time, a long contract, so any time you say that, I think being able to live in Philly and make Philly my full-time home, you can see a lot," Hamels said.

"You get to understand the fans' perspective and the owners' philosophy. It's tough to admit that there might have to be a direction change, but being able to win in this city and see what it means not only to the fans, but to the organization, you see that they want to have it happen very quickly."

Said Hamels: "In the type of contract that I have, I know that I'll still be here when the time comes for anything to happen."

"You still have confidence in our veterans. I think being able to see the type of bullpen and some of the young guys that have come in, there is still some really good excitement that we can give the fans something to expect. At the same time, you can't count us out."

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