The stage was set, the curtain was drawn, but as far as Cole Hamels was concerned, this was no more an audition than any other start he's had the past year.
The Phillies lefthander took the mound at Yankee Stadium Wednesday afternoon with many of the 45,877 in attendance daydreaming about what he might look like in pinstripes with five weeks to go before the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline. But Hamels has grown accustomed to that sort of speculation.
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Wednesday he shrugged it off.
"It's just kind of normal going on 12 months," Hamels said.
It was hardly a showcase performance -- in five innings, he allowed five earned runs, eight hits and three walks with three strikeouts in the Phillies' 10-2 loss. Hamels dropped to 5-6 and saw his ERA climb 30 points to 3.26. But to be fair, the 31-year-old, who skipped his previous start with a hamstring injury, didn't have much in the way of luck or defensive support.
"They had some little choppers, bunts, a ball hit the bag, little infield balls that trickled through," Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg said. "I would say his command was off some. Maybe a little rusty, but things did not go his way as far as some balls that were hit. It just wasn't his day out there."
Still, these facts remain: Hamels, who is guaranteed a hefty $86.2 million through 2018, owns a career 3.27 ERA, 1.17 WHIP and 113-89 record. He's proved this year that his stuff is just as dominant as ever -- entering Wednesday, he had struck out 103 of the 387 batters he had faced this season for a 26.6 percent strikeout rate, which would be a career high. The Yankees, who are 12th in the American League with a 4.12 ERA, are one of 10 teams that are not on Hamels' no-trade list. Despite the large price tag, they have not ruled out going after him, Newsday reported Tuesday.
In 2009, Cliff Lee was acquired by the Phillies in a move they believed would get them over the hump. After Wednesday's game, Hamels was asked whether he thought he could be that type of acquisition for a different team right now.
"That's kind of not even the focus right now," Hamels said. "I've got to pitch every five days. I'm just trying to stay healthy and just trying to put up good results for this team. Trying to be accountable."
"You don't really have control over anything. It's an organizational decision. All I can do is help them and be myself. They've got to make the decisions. They're the ones that really call the shots."
To further the point, Hamels spoke genuinely about his future in Philadelphia, and the impact he hopes to have as a continued member of the organization.
"I think I'm trying to do everything I can for this team and especially some of the young guys that we have," Hamels said. "Just trying to be somebody that has a lot of information and a lot of experience. And if they have the questions, show the type of work ethic that it takes to be able to be successful up here. I think that's kind of the only thought that I've really had. That's what I take day in and day out."