Cubs' Cole Hamels Feels 35 Years Young

The veteran Hamels hopes to be a key piece to the Cubs' rotation in 2019.

Bruce Levine
February 16, 2019 - 2:53 pm
Cubs left-hander Cole Hamels

Quinn Harris/USA Today Sports

Categories: 

MESA, Ariz. (670 The Score) -- Prognosticators are picking the Cubs to finish anywhere from first place in the National League Central to last. What appears to be the central reason in the predictions of the Cubs faltering is the age of two rotation members. 

Left-hander Jon Lester and left-hander Cole Hamels will both pitch at age 35 this season. The two remain productive and steady on the back end of long, successful careers. What sets them both apart is durability.

Lester has made at least 31 starts in each of the past 11 seasons. Hamels has made at least 30 starts in 10 of the past 11 seasons and he made 24 in the lone instance that he didn't reach that threshold.

They each plan to do the same in 2019.

"At this point, it's understanding that you come out and give everything you can," Hamels said. "I learned from a lot of really great pitchers and saw how they approached the game and the mentality they had. This could be the very last moment you get, so you have to enjoy the moment. You should be a more positive influence and a better role model. 

"That is not only to teammates but to minor league guys coming up. You have today's youth looking on observing you. Anyway to represent yourself in the best and most positive light is kind of what it takes."

In November, the Cubs picked up the $20-million team option for Hamels in 2019, retaining a starter who was key to their rotation in the final two months of 2018 after being acquired in a trade with the Rangers in late July. 

Hamels is happy to be with the team from the beginning of spring training this year. He feels that aging for the special athlete is different than the average Joe.

"The human element exists in certain guys," Hamels said. "Tom Brady, Drew Brees -- look what they have done and continue to do. You look at guys like that and they don't allow just an average to control the result when you associate it with age. I don't think guys like Jon Lester or me ever have considered ourselves to be average. If we were, we would never be in his position and never get to this level."

Having directed his Rays against Hamels and the Phillies in the 2008 World Series, Cubs manager Joe Maddon has seen Hamels at his best. He only sees a slight difference between then and now in Hamels.

"What I saw in 2008 was not fun," Maddon said. "Maybe he has a click more velocity back then. The changeup is devastating, and I love the curveball. This guy, I think, can control a whole game just with his changeup. You look at the health and shape he is in, the energy he has, it's still pretty reminiscent of 10 years ago." 

Hamels posted a 3.78 ERA overall in 2018, which included a 4.72 ERA in 20 starts with the Rangers. He had a 2.36 ERA in 12 starts with the Cubs. 

The Cubs brought Hamels into their clubhouse in part because of the veteran stability and leadership that he offers from a career that now includes 13 seasons, four All-Star selections and the World Series MVP in 2008.

"We talked in the offseason and now about what we are trying to accomplish," Hamels said. "What do we want to accomplish as individuals and team? As Lester said, this is our time to be that sort of person. It is kind of an honor to play the game as long as we have."

The Cubs saw 95 regular-season wins last season rendered insignificant when they were defeated by the Brewers for the National League Central crown in Game 163 before being eliminated in the NL wild-card game a day later -- with both losses coming at Wrigley Field.

The challenge for Hamels and his teammates is to carry the positive into 2019 and leave the bitter taste of a bad end to 2018 behind. The Cubs hope that the experience of Hamels is a part of rebounding.

"That really was a gut punch to end the season," Hamels said. "It was also a gut check to some guys, realizing how difficult this game can be. We learn not to take things for granted and really at the end of the day to get the most out of yourself and out of your teammates to go out and win. That is really what the whole thing is about. We can win for each other, the organization and an incredible city."

Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine​.