MLB.com Columnist

Tracy Ringolsby

Hamels' latest gem shows his great value

Left-hander spins 7 1/3 innings of one-run ball against Rockies

Hamels' latest gem shows his great value

DENVER -- Contenders take note. There is no sense waiting any longer.

If a top-of-the-rotation left-hander is on the wish list, Cole Hamels is alive and well, pitching for the Phillies. And the asking price isn't going down. If anything, it may nudge up a bit every time Hamels takes the mound the way he is pitching.

Don't let the blips on the radar overshadow what he's doing. Hamels still has what it takes, even in the hitting friendly confines of Coors Field, where he allowed one run in 7 1/3 innings of the Phillies' 4-3 victory against the Rockies on Monday night.

Impressed?

That's six times in Hamels' past eight starts that he's allowed two runs or less, and now just four runs total in 21 1/3 innings over his last three starts. That's 11-0 for him in the past 17 starts he has made in which the Phils have scored at least three runs with him on the mound.

That's what a contender is looking for, a pitcher with a big-game history who has the maturity to focus on the moment at hand, and not be distracted by the rumors and innuendos surrounding every move he makes.

"He's just focused on the task at hand, the challenge on the field of getting hitters out and winning," said Phillies pitching coach Bob McClure. "He's so competitive. He just wants the ball every fifth day and wants to win."

Never even a hiccup with the constant focus of opposing scouts and the media?

"He has that attitude, he's not allowing anything like that to happen," said McClure.

OK, Hamels is 31, and the last couple of years haven't been as kind to him as the first seven seasons he spent in the big leagues. But remember, the Phils haven't enjoyed the last couple of years as much as they did those first seven years that he was around.

And what can't be ignored is that while Hamels is a combined 21-26 since the start of the 2013 season, he does have a 3.06 ERA in that spell despite pitching his home games at Citizens Bank Park, which may not be Coors Field in terms of the way the ball carries, but has those cozy dimensions that tend to enhance offensive efforts.

Face it, Hamels has worked 190-plus innings each of the past seven seasons, surpassing the 200-inning mark six times in that stretch, and he's already worked 58 1/3 innings this year, easily on pace to extend that streak to eight years.

And Hamels got better the deeper he got into the game on Monday. Aided by a double play following Carlos Gonzalez's leadoff single in the six, he faced the minimum 12 batters to get his final 12 outs, striking out five of them. In the midst of that stretch, the Phillies turned a two-out, nobody on situation in the sixth into a three-run rally and a 4-1 lead.

"Cole with a lead, that's when he really turns it up a notch," said Phils manager Ryne Sandberg.

Hamels also is under control in terms of his contract through at least 2018 at $23.5 million a year, and a $20 million option for 2019 that does carry a $6 million buyout. That's why teams like the Padres, Dodgers, Cardinals, Tigers and Yankees are so often mentioned in connection with Hamels.

The scouts in the stands taking notes of every moment, and the media in the clubhouse with cameras, notebooks and microphones ready to register any utterance have been known to make an impact on the mental stability of many a player over the years.

Hamels, however, has remained immune to the hype.

"That's a situation you understand," he said. "You have to be accessible to the fans and [media] around the club. You have to give them the best perspective you can to our lives on the field."

Emphasis on the field. This isn't about Hamels' private time. It's about his time at the ballpark.

Hamels is one of the game's most accommodating stars, politely (and then some) dealing with the ongoing questions about what's next in his career, even though it's the Phillies and any team that may trade for him that has control over that, not Hamels.

It is, Hamels said, a product of having been with those Phils teams that won five consecutive National League East titles in Hamels' first five full big leagues seasons (2007-11), including a World Series championship in 2008 when he was the MVP of the NL Championship Series (2-0, 1.93 ERA against the Dodgers) and the World Series (1-0, 2.77 ERA in two starts against the Rays).

There was a veteran nucleus that didn't let the rookie go astray.

"It takes patience," Hamels said of dealing with the outside curiosity, "but it was what we are expected to do. You learn to bear down and develop that tunnel vision where what counts is that next pitch, and nothing else.

"I was helped by being around veteran guys like Roy [Halladay], Pedro [Martinez], Cliff [Lee] and Jamie [Moyer]. They were guys who helped me gain a better perspective of what it means to be a big leaguer."

It's a lesson Hamels learned well.

Tracy Ringolsby is a columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.