Cole Hamels threw 35 in-game pitches from the mound in Frisco on Friday night, 25 of them for strikes. He worked with his full arsenal, with the fastball being easily his most comfortable pitch, sitting around 91-93 MPH.
He looked like Cole Hamels - maybe not MVP Cole Hamels, but solidly comfortable major league pitcher Cole Hamels, facing hitters many further steps down the developmental ladder than himself. He threw in a rhythm, covered first, and did nothing to particularly concern anyone.
Results in these outings for players on rehab don't usually matter. They're out there to find their sea legs, rebuild playing strength, and work on getting back to the big leagues. That said, Hamels went three innings, allowed no runs on zero walks and just one hit. He struck out three.
If anything, Hamels’ rehab start last night only served to illustrate a point that it is sometimes easy to forget - exactly how large the distance is between the minors and the majors. The fluctuating 750 major league players are the best (on average) 750 players out of a developmental system that holds thousands.
The short-season leagues are allowed 35 total players on their rosters, and the full-season leagues only 25. That is at least 6720 minor leaguers across 30 home organizations, not even including those that never make it out of extended spring training onto a roster, or the any number of floating players that spend time on the temporarily restricted list or disabled list.
That’s a lot of players to be winnowed down to around 750-800 major leaguers per season, especially since each season doesn’t start out with a blank slate in the bigs. Every season does add 40 rounds of 30 players each in draft picks (not all of whom sign, of course) plus compensation picks, plus international free agents.
The point here being made, of course, is that Cole Hamels, even at a career low, and rehabbing is elite. He’s large amounts of money elite.
Now, this isn’t to say any big leaguer is guaranteed a perfect game or four hits in their return to a level they may have long passed by. That’s part of the simple nature of the game - sometimes, the lesser wins. Sometimes, the coins land just right and a Double-A pitcher never to be heard of again strikes out someone like Carlos Gomez (or, surely, in his upcoming rehab stints, Mike Trout).
A hitter guesses right and takes a Cole Hamels offspeed to left field for a single. That’s why this game is so addictive, has such a hold on our collective imaginations - the uncertainty baked into every moment. Change over time is evident, but the granular is unpredictable.
As for the future of Hamels? He’s likely to get at least one more start, one where he’s able to go longer. He clearly felt fine after tonight’s three innings, going down to the Frisco bullpen to throw a good number of extra pitches at full tilt, a good sign for the evening.
When and where he pitches next will depend on how he feels over the next few days, but this first test - throwing under even lightweight adrenaline conditions, in the heat, against dudes in grey uniforms, will give him a lot of information about how his body is feeling. Feel usually comes back, and Hamels is enough of a wily veteran to be able to work within what he has.
It’s a good thing, every once in awhile, though, to be reminded of the difference between one of the many, and one out of them.
While Kate was on hand to watch Cole Hamels in Frisco last night, you could have been following her on Twitter @unlikelyfanatic for more of her insights.