Hammel's offseason work translating to mound

Right-hander tosses four scoreless innings in win over White Sox

Hammel's offseason work translating to mound

MESA, Ariz. -- Jason Hammel had the longest outing of any Cubs starter on Saturday, pitching four scoreless innings in a 9-2 win over the White Sox. He called it "extra credit," because Hammel could feel all the work he did this offseason pay off.

"I actually was delivering the pitch with my legs, not my arm," Hammel said after his outing. "I know the fastball command will get even better. Today it was good, but it can get better. The delivery was a lot more effortless. Using the legs, the arm felt a lot better."

Hammel served up a single to the White Sox's Brett Lawrie, the second batter in the game, and Leury Garcia reached on a bunt hit with one out in the third, and that was it. The right-hander struck out four and did not walk a batter.

"The work I put in has definitely translated," Hammel said.

Which is very encouraging heading into the 2016 season.

"I've always been a hard worker, I had to make some adjustments to find a way to make my delivery a little crisper and more repeatable and right now, it's translating," he said.

Hammel was 10-7 with a 3.74 ERA in 31 starts last season, but a leg injury at the All-Star break affected him in the second half. He was 5-4 with a 2.86 ERA in 17 starts in the first half, and 5-3 with a 5.10 ERA in 14 second half starts. He devoted himself this offseason to a workout program designed to strengthen his legs and core.

How did he deal with the second-half frustration?

"You just have to get through it and find a way to compete every day," Hammel said. "I love the game. I know what I can do, I know what I can offer the team. As long as you have confidence in yourself, even if you don't feel well or you're not getting the job done, you have to find a way to continue to battle. The fact that [manager] Joe [Maddon] stuck with me as long as he did makes me feel really good. I know I was better than that, everybody else knows I was better than that. I had to make some adjustments."

Delivery-wise, he's working on throwing more on a downward plane.

"Even though the pitches could be belt high, I'm still driving it down," Hammel said. "It's harder to hit something that's going down than something going straight at you."

Saturday was very encouraging for Hammel, who is expected to be slotted into the rotation behind Jake Arrieta, Jon Lester and John Lackey.

"It was good, and I'll definitely take it," Hammel said.

Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.