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October 30, 2009

Cole Hamels


Q. Could you just talk about your curveball and how important that is to your success and how it's developed this year in terms of knowing when you can rely on it and when you know that it's going to be a pitch that's going to work for you that game?
COLE HAMELS: So you're trying to get me to say that if I don't throw a good curveball I'm going to lose the game?

Q. Just talk about the importance of it, yeah.
COLE HAMELS: You need to be able to throw quite a few pitches in the Big Leagues. There's only a few people that can get away with two or fewer pitches, Mariano being one guy in particular I think with one, very well. But after a while there's so much video, and you have to be able to throw something effectively. I know I can throw my fastball and change-up for strikes any day of the week. But being able to throw a curveball and mixing that in changes the eye level, and with that, it's a different speed than my other two pitches. So it kind of adds in something else that they do have to look for.
I know a lot of guys, especially A.J. last night, he used his curveball very effectively because it is one of those tough pitches, and he did very well with getting guys to swing and miss or not even attempting to swing.
It's been something in the process all year, and I think it's one of those types of pitches when you're pitching well, you don't need to really use it as much, and I think that's kind of been the case. But once you start to struggle, you do have to use it. I've had to attempt to use it a little bit more this year. But I know it's something that -- I used to have a good one back in the day before I learned a change-up. Kind of got away from it, and it's more knowing if you don't throw a strike the very first time, don't forget about it. You still have to go out there and do it. It's a pitch that I think everybody learns when they're 12.

Q. I have a two-part question: In terms of scouting, how much does that help you guys as starting pitchers? Because we noticed over the last couple years Games 1 and 2 of the World Series, you guys have held the three-four hitters to just one hit - the Teixeira homerun. How much does that help you in preparing for a team? And do you see any comparison between yourself and a young Andy Pettitte in terms of I don't know how much you watched him growing up?
COLE HAMELS: I watched Andy Pettitte a lot growing up. Andy Pettitte and Tom Glavine, those were the guys I emulated growing up when I was a little kid. They were always in the playoffs. I always got to watch them. They always pitched big games and they won. Andy Pettitte has been very effective for a long time, and he's always the kind of guy I've looked at and hoped to be one day in his shoes. Now I'm here and I'm going to be able to face him in the World Series and he's on the Yankees again. So it's just kind of a big game just for the fact of he was one of the guys I watched when I was a kid.
But to go with scouting, sometimes you can over-prepare, sometimes you can under-prepare. It does help, though, with a lot of the video that you can really break down a hitter and kind of see what they're doing or what they plan on doing in certain at-bats and certain pitches at times in the game. But sometimes you can really get carried away, and you have to really focus on what got you to the Big Leagues. If you try to pitch to them more than what it took you to get to the Big Leagues, you're going to be in a not comfortable spot, and that's kind of something where you do.
I look for certain places I might be able to throw a guy in a certain situation, but really deep down, I just kind of have to believe that my stuff is pretty good. It's got me some success in the Big Leagues, so I might as well stick to it.

Q. Is this Yankee team almost a mirror image of your squad in the fact that they can strike and strike quickly? And secondly, how do you prepare for a lineup for that?
COLE HAMELS: I don't know, I think I've answered that question like eight times this year, but yeah, they're the same. They're the types of guys that I think we're -- I don't know if you look at it on paper, but we're almost kind of a younger version of them, just for the fact of everybody kind of knows the Yankees, and these guys have been the top dogs in whatever organization they played for beforehand, and they're on the Yankees. We've been fortunate enough to have a lot of guys come up through our organization which the Yankees have done, but a lot of their guys are a little bit older now, which always helps, because you've got to have the experience.
But it's just -- they're two fun teams to watch. Our lineups are very powerful and we do have some speed, and we definitely have the big time closers and we have some big time starters. I think it's just pretty good that we were able to kind of match up in the World Series, and I think for Major League Baseball it's pretty good to have these types of teams because we can attract a lot of viewers.

Q. How cool is that Andy Pettitte stare when he peers over his glove? And when you were a kid watching him, is that something you'd maybe goof around and try to imitate a little bit?
COLE HAMELS: Of course. I think him and Randy Johnson with the stare over the glove, I kind of do that a little bit, but it's not as pronounced as that. Yeah, it's the focus. I think when all you see is his eyes, he's definitely focusing really well, and he has something up his sleeve. And he definitely does. He's the type of guy that has a ton of great pitches, knows how to pitch, got an unbelievable pick-off move, and I wouldn't put it past him to be able to swing the bat really well.

Q. These have been two very long years for you on your arm. I mean, how do you feel physically? And is there anything in your preparation for this year that you feel like you would have done differently after all the innings last year?
COLE HAMELS: I actually feel great right now. I think I'm only about 200-something innings, so I feel great.
Last year was definitely a big workload, but I didn't notice it. I just went out there and pitched, and I enjoyed it. You get into the off-season and you kind of don't know what to do. You get a little paranoid. Should I throw? Should I take time off? And it kind of throws you off from your normal schedule of whatever your throwing program is because you played an extra month, and if you haven't done that, which most of us hadn't done in this organization, you don't know how to treat it. Sometimes you might do a little too much, cause some soreness, or you do too little, which will in return cause some soreness during Spring Training. I think that's kind of what happened is it was just so familiar. But it's what you need, and I'm glad I got it when I'm young so it can really -- I can schedule my workouts a little bit better in the off-season.

Q. Was it too much or too little for you last winter?
COLE HAMELS: Probably too little. I definitely tried to take some time off, but at the same point I did go down to Florida early, but I think it's hard when you kind of -- your popularity changes, opportunities come, you take them, and you learn. So it's something I learned, and now with this off-season approaching after the next two weeks, I think it'll be a lot better of an off-season for me and for our team, because I know I'm going to be able to come into Spring Training in a lot better shape.

Q. That said, a lot of people have had their own opinions about what the biggest difference is in your pitching this year. What do you think the biggest difference is from last year to this year?
COLE HAMELS: I think that some of it was I wasn't able to locate as well earlier in the season, and then it gets frustrating because I've been able to locate pitches or be able to throw to hitters and get guys out that you know you should get out, and you're not. So that becomes frustrating.
Then it's the mental burden which can kind of wear you down week after week of not being able to go out there and do what you're expecting yourself to do. And then what everybody else expects you to do, too. So it's been a growing process in that sort of a sort. It's something that I think a lot of guys have had to go through. I know I watched Verlander do it a couple years ago. I even was familiar with Josh Beckett doing it quite a few years ago when he won the World Series.
It's just coming back and delivering, and I still have an opportunity to help this team out and win some big games.

Q. Two questions: The first, before the Division Series you said you didn't care if you pitched Game 1 or 2 as long as you pitched here. What is it you like about pitching here because obviously it's a hitters' park? The second question, Charlie said before the game, Blanton will start Game 4, so now that you guys are in a four-man rotation that would line you up for a possible Game 7. Is that something that's exciting to you and in the back of your mind?
COLE HAMELS: No, it's definitely not in the back of my mind because I have to pitch Game 3. There won't be any Game 7 if we lose Game 3. Well, there could be -- sorry, I already sunk our ship. (Laughter).
No, you have to focus one game at a time, and so that's kind of -- Game 3 is where I'm at.
What was the first part of your question?

Q. What do you like about pitching in this park?
COLE HAMELS: You know, you can't beat pitching here. The fans have been tremendous, and the energy level this year has just been outstanding. And so for them to be able to come to your home park, you're obviously a little bit more familiar with your routine, you've got your gym, you've got the bullpen that you know what to do, you're not getting yelled at as much -- I'm just kidding.
But it's just nice to be able to start the game off right, and you don't have to sit in the dugout waiting. Really you get to go out there, pitch, and to be able to have the opportunity to win a game in front of your home crowd is just everything.

Q. Just to follow up on that, since you're talking about the home crowd, can you talk a little bit about the atmosphere you experienced in New York the last two days versus the atmosphere that you expect to get in Game 3 and what Yankee players and people will get from the fans, specifically considering it's Halloween?
COLE HAMELS: Yeah. Well, being in Yankee Stadium, it's a special place, and the fans are -- they're great there, especially for the Yankee players. They can have fun with you, the opposing team. But at the same point they love baseball, they want their team to win, and they're very energetic, and that's what we have here in Philly, and I think that's what's great. We do, we have two great cities that love their sports teams, and I think that's what really makes these games more enjoyable, because you do, you can feel the energy when you do something well, and you feed off it. And I think that's something we're going to be able to do when we're at home.
And I think the Yankees players are just going to be able to experience what we were experiencing, and they're going to try to calm down our crowd with scoring runs themselves.

Q. As you've become more established and there's more of a scouting report on you, have you noticed hitters changing their approach with you or trying to do different types of things? And if so, how have you adjusted in terms of your pattern?
COLE HAMELS: You know, I think everybody knows that I have a really good change-up and I can throw it at any time in the count. A lot of guys -- everybody is geared up to hit the fastball in the Big Leagues. If you can throw a change-up in there it screws them up. But at the same point, if a guy gets two strikes, I guess the home run swing gets put in the back of their mind and they just try to get the ball in play. It's not necessarily the advantage for me now because they do know what I'm going to throw most of the time when I have the strikeout count. That's where you definitely have to mix it up. That's where I've had to mix it up.
But every once in a while it's not like I'm going to stray away from it. At the same point you have to be able to locate, and I think a lot of times I have not been able to locate with my pitches, with a strikeout count and they get the hit and then another hit, and it adds up and all of a sudden there's a few runs on the board. Or they hit a big home run because I left a pitch up. Even though if they are expecting certain pitches in certain counts, if you locate it's going to be hard for them to hit.

Q. One thing you've had, I know you like to pitch deep into games and you've had problems because of pitch counts. You've had a lot of foul balls hit off of you, I know McCann in a game, Ethier. Do you have an explanation why guys are fouling balls off and how frustrating is that when you think you've made a good pitch and you have to make another one?
COLE HAMELS: The game of baseball, it's a game of inches. And when you're able to hit your spot, the bat just nicks it, it's just kind of that -- that kind of happens, and I think that happens sometimes in your career where one year they miss everything and the next year they foul off everything. I can't really explain much. I think a lot of it is because I wasn't able to hit my spots, and when you throw a ball right down the middle and they just miss it, they're more mad than you are because it's like, oh, I lucked out, and they're mad they didn't hit it over the fence. It really is about location.
I try to pride myself on my strikes percentage. I like to throw the ball over the plate. But at the same point, you have to know when to throw a pitch not over the plate and try to change their eye levels, and I think that's kind of where I've had a hard time where I just keep throwing over the plate, throwing over the plate, throwing over the plate, and they keep fouling it off because it's still within their range. That's why they take batting practice for hours every day.

Q. A couple follow-ups: On the issue of the frustration, how do you balance your competitiveness, which is a hot emotion, with trying to stay even keel, which is a cool emotion, when the frustration sets in? And also, a different area, everybody talks about on the Yankees about how they block the fans out here. Obviously you don't want to do that when you're here, you're not blocking the fans out. How do the fans help you, if they do?
COLE HAMELS: You know, I think in baseball you always strive to be perfect. It's an unrealistic expectation, even though you can throw a perfect game. But most of the time not every one of those pitches are where you want it and you lucked out a few times. It's just something where you really have to get in your head that you strive to be perfect, you have to understand that it's very hard to do, and it's okay if you do give up runs. And I think sometimes you can kind of get wrapped up with that competition of doing so well and the numbers games of what everybody else expects you to do.
Sometimes they always -- Cliff can get wrapped up in that. He's been able to do everything he's wanted to, and now fans are going to expect him to go out and throw a nine-inning shutout every game he pitches in. That's an unrealistic expectation. He might be able to do it but he's not going to do it every game throughout a season. I think that's kind of what happened this year. What I was able to do last year, everybody thinks I should go out there and pitch eight-inning shutouts every game, and that's a hard thing to do.
But, you know, it is, it's just kind of taking the pressure off. But if you never go through a situation, how do you know what to do, and I think that's kind of what I've learned this year is how to deal with it. It's been helpful having the kind of pitchers we have with Jamie and Pedro and Cliff who have been through the ups and downs of their careers, and I really haven't been through too many ups or too many downs, so you have to learn it.
At the same point, you do, you know how to block out the fans. I think everybody does because you're playing this game, you're so focused on what you have to do at hand, you really don't ever really notice the fans. I have games where even if I'm doing very poorly or really well, I don't notice how many fans are there. The only time you notice them is when you're not playing, and I think that's kind of what I have because I only play once five games. Those four days I really get to look around and notice the energy.

Q. Even when things are going well in the series you didn't notice the fans even here at the ballpark?
COLE HAMELS: No, I didn't. I was so focused on what I had to do that that takes you away from what the whole surroundings are going on.

Q. If this was two days ago, we'd have been asking about facing a hitter as hot as Alex Rodriguez. Anything the last couple of days that you've seen that makes you think differently about how you would attack him?
COLE HAMELS: No, don't get over-confident. I know that, because that's why they're who they are. Alex has won MVP after MVP. He's really good. You have Derek Jeter; those guys are -- and Teixeira. I've been able to face them when they've been at their best, and I've been able to face them when they haven't. It's one of those things where they can always hurt you, and especially when you least expect it, so you really have to still be on your game.

Q. You talked about talking to Pedro and Jamie Moyer and Cliff Lee. Before Pedro and Cliff got here and as you go through certain struggles, everybody, pitching coaches at every level will say "just trust your stuff." Where are you able to get that from, that confidence back to just trust your stuff? And talk about that relationship with Jamie, whether he was the guy who was able to convey that to you.
COLE HAMELS: A lot of times you have to really just go out there and kind of have the understanding that you're in the Big Leagues. You had to go through quite a few levels to get to the Big Leagues, and you had to succeed at those levels, otherwise you would have never gotten a shot. Even through the successes that I've had, you still have to go out there and compete, but you really do have to understand that you have to step back and go, wow, you know what, I've actually done some of these things that are very hard to do. I've had successes against these hitters. Even when you give up a home run to a Manny Ramirez, I can go back and go, I have struck him out.
Really, you have to try to keep looking at the positives. You can't get wrapped up in what you're doing wrong, and I think that's something that Jamie has conveyed to me is you're always one pitch away. You really do have to focus on one pitch at a time. You can't look, okay, who's on the on-deck circle, who's coming up after him, when you're like, wait, I still have a guy at the plate I have to get out. That's kind of where it is. It's one pitch at a time, and even though you only get a certain amount of pitches to throw in a game, you have to make every one of those pitches count.

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