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PHILADELPHIA -- One pitcher barely beeped on a scout's radar because of a below-average fastball. While his above-average pitching acumen remained in its nascent stages, it wasn't enough to merit more than a passing mention.
The second hurler jumped out from a "stuff" standpoint, with a well-moving fastball and hard-breaking curve. Though raw, this Southern kid possessed the temperament and confidence that could translate into big league success.
The third poised individual impressed scouts with a rare combination of stuff and polish. Already in possession of a crushing changeup, a fastball and an easy delivery, the "I'm the guy in control of the game" moxie displayed from this Southern California high school standout projected star potential.
Yes, Phillies assistant general manager Mike Arbuckle remembers the first time he saw Philadelphia starters Jamie Moyer, Brett Myers and Cole Hamels pitch. He saw Moyer while the latter was at Triple-A with the Iowa Cubs, then saw Myers and Hamels when they were at Englewood (Fla.) High School and Rancho-Bernardo (Calif.) High School, respectively.
"We thought Cole and Brett had a chance to be upper-part-of-the-rotation guys," Arbuckle said. "The intangibles really stood out. Every now and then, you'll get the feeling you're getting a 21-year-old college pitcher in an 18-year-old body. That was Cole. Brett had to learn how to pitch without trying to overpower you."
As for Moyer?
"I viewed him as one of those 4-A type guys, someone who would bounce back and forth," Arbuckle said. "As a scout, that's where you don't know makeup, approach to the game. If you measure his intangibles, feel for reading hitters' swings, preparation, he's off the charts. That's a rare bird.
"I can't teach our scout to chart high-school pitchers like that. We'd sign 1,000 of them and 995 won't get out of [Class A] ball."
Years later, the trio has combined forces to lead the Phillies to within eight wins of a World Series championship. They combined for a 3.74 ERA during the season and a 1.89 ERA in their playoff starts. The starters compiled a 4.23 ERA and held opponents to a .264 batting average, an impressive accomplishment for a staff that plays half its games at hitter-friendly Citizens Bank Park.
After Joe Blanton pitched brilliantly in Game 4 of the National League Division Series as Philadelphia dispatched of Milwaukee, the Phils again have Hamels, Myers and Moyer lined up for the first three games against the Dodgers in the NL Championship Series, with Blanton to follow. While there has been no official announcement, that is the likely scenario.
"We feel good about that," shortstop Jimmy Rollins said. "Everything is lining up the way we wanted. We have a couple days off to get ready for L.A. and get ready to roll."
Hamels and Moyer have been rolling since April, while Myers returned from a Minor League stint to flourish in the second half. Combining with a bullpen that compiled an NL-best 3.19 ERA, the Phillies are set up exactly as general manager Pat Gillick prefers.
"Preventing a run is almost the same as scoring a run," said Gillick, who traded for Moyer in August 2006. "I want to prevent as many runs as possible, and pitching and defense does that. You have to have that to be consistent throughout the season."
The Phillies have done just that, especially after Myers returned. The pitchers have allowed an inconsistent offense find its groove.
"Every guy knows how to win and eat up innings," Hamels said. "If you can win and eat up innings, it shows what you have inside and the competitiveness you have. The guys have stepped up and that's what we need to do going into this [NLCS] against the Dodgers."
This reminded Arbuckle of a story which goes beyond what can be seen by an old scout's eye.
"The Cincinnati Reds had a space on their scouting report where, after you grade out everything -- fastball, command, movement -- there's a simple question, 'Can he play?'" he said. "That's what it comes down to."