The silver lining for the Phillies during a forgettable 2012 season was in late July when Cole Hamels signed a long-term deal to stay with the club.
“So many of us were watching what he would do,” Red Sox pitcher Ryan Dempster said. “He left a lot of money [on the table]. He could have commanded something ridiculous on the open market, but he opted to stay with the Phillies.”
Hamels had an easy out. He could have said that he saw an aging core with little hope for the future. But he obviously sees something very different. Add a healthy Hamels to Cliff Lee, a strong bullpen, a healthy Ryan Howard and the Phils should be in much better shape than last season.
And then there are the big question marks. Can Chase Utley play 140 games? Can Roy Halladay approximate his days as the best pitcher in baseball after a disappointing, injury-riddled season?
“I wouldn’t count the Phillies out,” Dempster said. “I never liked facing that lineup. If Utley is healthy and Ryan Howard is close to 100-percent, all I can say is don’t count out a champion. These guys won it all and almost won another World Series. They’ve been there. They can handle the heat.
“They may have some questions, but they are not an easy team to deal with whether you’re a hitter or a pitcher. If teams underestimate the Phillies this season, they might pay for it. I think that’s a team that’s going to be tough this year. There is a reason that Hamels came back. He saw that they still have a strong core. That division race [in the NL East] is going to be interesting.”
Schmidt says 2013 Phillies are ‘hungry’ team
On Wednesday, Mike Schmidt showed up at Phillies camp without his trademark mustache. If that isn’t the first sign that change is in the air, then what else is?
Schmidt, who is in Florida as a special hitting instructor, watched the Phils take batting practice Thursday and gave his former team an ego boost.
“I think the team feels they have something to prove,” Schmidt said. “And they dang sure have the studs to do it. They’re still the same team pretty much. A little bit older and a little bit more experienced, but we’re hungry. And there’s nothing like being hungry.”
The Hall of Famer spoke for almost a half hour, addressing topics as far-ranging as the 2013 Phillies to the steroid era. In previous interviews, Schmidt has always
maintained that if he had been offered steroids, he probably would have taken them.
“I sort of ride the fence on that whole steroid-era issue,” Schmidt said. “I don’t have a definite opinion like some of my fellow Hall of Famers. Some of the guys were very, very adamant about a person being associated with steroids: ‘They’ll never be in the Hall of Fame. If they are, I’ll never come back.’ I’ve heard that from some of my fellow members and I think that’s absolutely ridiculous.”