Hammel takes unusual route to playoffs
Righty traded to Rockies day before regular season
DENVER -- Right up until the last day of Spring Training, Jason Hammel was in a fierce neck-and-neck competition for the last spot in the Tampa Bay Rays starting rotation with his good friend, Jeff Niemann.
Hammel eventually lost the job, as the Rays chose Niemann, though he certainly feels as if he's gained something greater in return since he was traded to Colorado on the eve of the season, like opportunity and the chance to do something Niemann and the Rays aren't doing now.
- 2009 Regular Season
- Overall: 35 G (23 GS), 12-4, 2.93 ERA, 56 BB, 119K
- Overall: 34 G (30 GS), 10-8, 4.33 ERA, 42 BB, 133K
- Key stat: 1.26 WHIP as starter
- Key stat: 2.1 BB/9 IP
- Career: 2 G (0 GS), 3 IP, 0-0, 3.00
- Career: NR
Career: 1 G (0 GS), 2.1 IP, 0 R, 1 H, 1K
Career: 16 G (15 GS), 3-3, 5.73 ERA
- Against this opponent
- 2009: 2G (1 GS) 1-0, 0.00
Career: 2G (1 GS) 1-0, 0.00
- 2009: 2 G (1 GS), 1-0, 4.82
Career: 2 G (1 GS), 1-0, 4.82
- Loves to face.: Troy Tulowitzki, 0-for-5, 3 Ks
Hates to face: Dexter Fowler 1-for-3, 2B, BB
- Loves to face: Ryan Howard, 0-4, K
Hates to face: Raul Ibanez, 4-8, 2B, HR, RBI
- Game breakdown
- Why he'll win: Limited Rockies to .139 BA and .184 OBP this year.
- Why he'll win: 2 L since start of August
- Pitcher beware: 1-2, 4.84 ERA and .344 opp. BA in final five starts
- Pitcher beware: 5.73 ERA at home in '09
- Bottom line: Past dominance brings confidence.
- Bottom line: He won't beat himself.
Playing meaningful games in October.
They're not any more meaningful than this, though Hammel got an extra day to think about his start in Game 3 of the NLDS after Saturday's game was postponed because of inclement weather in Denver.
Hammel, who hasn't appeared in a game since Oct. 4, will get the chance to give the Rockies an advantage in the best-of-five series when the series resumes Sunday at Coors Field.
To be sure, Hammel has come a long ways since Spring Training, when his world was turned on its ear with the trade from the Rays to the Rockies, which meant saying goodbye to teammates and friends, one of them being the guy he was going up against for a starting job (Niemann).
"You know, Jeff and I were really good friends," Hammel said on Friday. "We weren't really looking too much at it as a negative thing, which one was going, who was going to get the spot.
"He had a great season. I came over here and got a great opportunity. The guys accepted me really well, really quickly, and made my transition about as seamless as it could have been. I'm definitely excited to be here."
The Rockies are certainly more than happy to have him, especially after starting pitcher Jeff Francis was lost for the rest of the season in Spring Training with a torn labrum that required surgery in February.
The arrival of Hammel helped bolster a staff that already had Jorge De La Rosa, Ubaldo Jimenez, Aaron Cook and Jason Marquis. Hammel went 10-8 during the regular season with a 4.33 ERA in a career-best 176 2/3 innings.
"This guy was as consistent as any of the guys in our rotation that you would want to talk about," Rockies manager Jim Tracy said. "And it didn't matter if it was at Coors Field or on the road.
"He has been a model of consistency for us since the All-Star break, and obviously we're very pleased about that because moving forward here's another young guy that has grown quite a bit since April."
And when it came time to picking a starting pitcher for Game 3, Hammel was the easiest answer for Tracy, even with Marquis, a 15-game winner, a viable option.
"There's no doubt in my mind, as I said the other day, that he is the guy right now that should pitch Game 3 of this playoff," Tracy said. "That's no disrespect meant to a 15-game winner that we have. From a consistency standpoint, [Hammel] has thrown the ball as well for us as any of our guys in that rotation."
Hammel admitted Friday that there was a period of adjustment, having changed teams, leagues and trying to find his place with the Rockies. That showed on occasion on the mound, as he was inconsistent early in the season.
Then there was the getting-used-to-Coors Field factor, which, he said, turned out to be much of nothing.
"I heard a lot of bad things about the place, the balls fly faster. I wasn't here and wasn't performing when they had the humidor," said Hammel, who relies mostly on a four-seam fastball and curveball. "I don't know what it was like with or without the humidor.
"Honestly, there's not much change. The slider is maybe the only thing that's changed, maybe a little flatter. But other than that, it's still a baseball field."
The Rockies parted with Minor League pitcher Aneury Rodriguez in the deal, a pitcher they thought highly of. Rodriguez went 9-11 with a 4.50 ERA for the Rays' Double-A team.
But Rodriguez is still in the Minor Leagues. Niemann won 13 games, but his team is not in the playoffs. Hammel is in the NLDS, with a chance to give the Rockies a two games to one lead in the series on Saturday.
"As players, we didn't know what we were getting whatsoever, him being in the American League," Rockies first baseman Todd Helton said. "But he's a competitor. He's got really good stuff. He doesn't walk many guys, and he's very consistent."
Corey Brock is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.