Cole Hamels savors no-hitter in face of trade rumors

CHICAGO -- After tossing the first complete-game no-hitter of his career Saturday, Cole Hamels was ushered into the interview room at Wrigley Field for his postgame session with the media. The room usually is reserved for the manager and players from the home team, so the Philadelphia Phillies ace was seated in front of a backdrop with the Chicago Cubs' logo prominently displayed.

It certainly made for a surreal moment because it has been reported that the Cubs and Phillies have had recent discussions about a deal involving Hamels. With the trading deadline approaching next week, Hamels was asked if he could envision himself in a Cubs uniform.

"That's kind of tough to answer because right now I'm wearing Phillies red, and that's where I plan to play," Hamels said. "That's kind of all I can really do. It's out of my control. I try to wake up every day and drive to Citizens Bank Park and play with the big ‘P' on my chest, and that's sort of what I've done since the moment I got drafted by them.

"That's what I'm going to do until the moment somebody says no."

If Saturday's game was an audition of sorts -- which was the pregame buzz -- Hamels passed with flying colors.

"He definitely increased his value, I would imagine," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. "You're going to get that higher-tier prospect because of that performance today.

"He was really good. He is really good."

Hamels, 31, was hit hard in each of his previous two starts, allowing a combined 14 earned runs on 20 hits in 6 1/3 innings against the San Francisco Giants and Miami Marlins. He certainly showed all who were watching -- especially the Cubs -- that there's nothing wrong with his stuff. He consistently threw his fastball 94-95 mph and effectively changed speeds by mixing in his cutter (90 mph), curveball (79-80) and changeup (86). The left-hander struck out 13 and recorded a double-digit strikeout game for the 29th time in his career.

Despite the trade buzz circulating around him, Hamels said he was focused solely on getting back on track.

"No matter how good you are, or how good you think you are, sometimes I think you need checkpoints," he said. "You definitely get humbled in this game. It slows you back down, and you're able to get back to the basics. You can go back to being yourself and executing pitches and being the type of pitcher you expect to be."

Because of that, pitching a no-hitter is the last thing Hamels was thinking about early on.

"I was just happy I was able to execute pitches in first two innings," he said. "Being able to be out there and finally feel like I had a comfortable rhythm -- especially with my mechanics and all the stuff I've been working on the past couple of days -- I finally felt like it was clicking and I was able to let things happen."

He allowed only two baserunners on a pair of walks but had to survive a couple of close calls in the final two innings. In the eighth, Cubs catcher David Ross hit a drive to deep center field. Odubel Herrera made a running catch on the warning track and then made a dive after the ball hit his glove.

On the final out, Cubs rookie Kris Bryant hit a shot to deep center field. Herrera actually ran back too far and then had to come in at the last moment to make a diving catch.

Hamels was grateful for both plays -- and grateful the wind at Wrigley was blowing in. On Friday, when the wind was blowing out, both might have been home runs.

"I think I've been here a few times with the wind blowing out," he said. "Knowing that every once in a while you want to get away with a pitch, that was the one pitch I was glad I got away with. You've got a great hitter in Kris Bryant. To be able to keep that in the ballpark, and then Herrera making a great play -- the second time -- it was real nice to see that happen."

Hamels, who was a part of a combined no-hitter last September, was asked where this game ranks.

"Nothing will top winning the World Series," he said, "but I think this is probably on that top list, probably right under it."

Hamels showed Saturday why the Phillies have been reluctant to pull the trigger on a deal despite the fact that the left-hander has been on the market for a couple of years.

"Today was vintage Cole Hamels," Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said. "Other than that combined no-hitter last year, to be perfectly honest with you, I think it's overdue. The stuff that he has, you would be able to do that more often -- at least flirt with no-hitters. He had everything going for him."

If Saturday's game does prove to be his last with the Phillies, Hamels was asked how special is it that his tenure could be capped by a no-hitter.

"It's not what I envisioned, it's not what I thought, it's not in my thought process," he said. "All I've thinking about the past couple of days is to just try and correct my pitching, just being out there and enjoying the moment.

"Sometimes you get a little bit carried away and get complacent. Being in the big leagues is pretty special, and being able to do so for any sort of ballclub, any city is special, and you want to do it for as long as you can because some people don't have those opportunities. I think it was just getting back to cherishing the moment that I have and going out and delivering the type of expectations I have on myself."