The sad saga of Cole Hamels may have reached its end.
Before he could even throw a pitch for his newest team, the Los Angeles Dodgers, the 6’5″ left-hander felt shoulder pain and landed on the 60-day injured list. Since he’ll be a free agent again this fall, his fast-fading career seems to be in serious jeopardy.
The 2008 World Series MVP while pitching for Philadelphia, Hamels signed a one-year, $18 million contract with the Atlanta Braves for 2020 but suffered shoulder and triceps problems. He pitched only once, lasting 3 1/3 innings.
After a 2021 showcase that attracted scouts for several clubs, the 37-year-old lefty signed with the Dodgers, seeking experienced southpaw support in the absence of Clayton Kershaw.
He apparently felt pain during a simulated game, causing the Dodgers to shut him down. With advancing athletic age and his shoulder barking again, Hamels could be history.
The team, impressed with his showcase, had signed him for $1 million – or an average of $200,000 a start for the rest of the season. He was attracted to L.A. because of his Southern California roots.
The 6-4, 205-pound San Diego native turned pro after the Phillies made him their first-round pick in the 2002 amateur draft. The hard-throwing Hamels proved a durable starter, working 200 innings six years in a row and making the National League All-Star team four times. His 162-game average was 13-10 with a 3.43 earned run average.
Hamels also went 7-6 with a 3.44 ERA in postseason play (17 games) and was named Most Valuable Player of Philadelphia’s win over the Tampa Bay Rays in 2008. After leaving the Phils, Hamels pitched for the Chicago Cubs and Texas Rangers, though not as effectively, before signing with Atlanta as a free agent.
The Braves, seeking veteran help for their young rotation, also signed former Cy Young Award winner Felix Hernandez but received a combined single start from the two signees. Hernandez opted out with concerns over the contagious Covid-19 while Hamels had shoulder and triceps injuries that kept him sidelined until September.
He then became a free agent again, signing with Los Angeles less than two weeks before he returned to the IL.
The Hamels injury hurts the Dodgers, already riddled with injuries to rotation members Danny Duffy, Tony Gonsolin, Dustin May, and Julio Urias, in addition to Kershaw. The biggest loss is Kershaw, out until September with forearm soreness, though May will out the longest after undergoing Tommy John surgery to repair a damaged ligament in his elbow.
The Dodgers also lost projected ace Trevor Bauer, the defending National League Cy Young Award winner, after the free agent signee was placed on administrative leave by Major League Baseball for alleged sexual harassment of several women.
Seeking their ninth straight division title and second consecutive world championship, the Dodgers have trailed the San Francisco Giants in the NL West for most of this season. As play began Tuesday, they were four games off the lead but were the top seed (home team) for the NL Wild Card game.
No matter where they wind up, they’ll be in better shape than Hamels.
He turns 38 before the start of 2022 spring training and almost certainly will have trouble finding another suitor — even though his record shows 163 wins, 122 defeats, and a solid 3.43 earned run average. Though lefties often seem to have nine lives, two straight years of virtual inactivity make any future Cole Hamels comeback unlikely.