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Hamels in no rush to sign extension even after Madson injury

By Scott Miller | Senior Baseball Columnist
CLEARWATER, Fla. -- The Phillies took the news of ex-teammate and friend Ryan Madson's elbow injury hard, but Cole Hamels says a jolt such as that will not change his thinking as he approaches his final summer before free agency.

Translation: Though he's made no secret of his desire to continue to pitch in Philadelphia, he won't suddenly acquiesce and sign a below-market contract just for security's sake.

"No," Hamels said Sunday morning. "If you're in the game long enough, nothing can push you in a different direction and make you worry.

"If you're able to reach free agency, you've obviously had success in the big leagues, and there are going to be teams that trust you. Look at Brandon Webb, teams still trusted him even after a few surgeries. Mark Prior, after his injuries, teams were still interested because they knew if he came back, he could be a phenom again."

Hamels, 28, is due $15 million this season, having avoided arbitration by signing a one-year deal in January. He and the Phillies both have been optimistic about a multi-year deal, but with the season-opener a week from Thursday at Pittsburgh, Hamels' future beyond 2012 remains uncertain.

"Surgeries are a lot better today, they're not as scary as they were 10 or 12 years ago," he said, both as a comforting thought for Madson and as another reason why a friend's injury won't cause him to rush into a new contract.

Besides, Hamels has his own history to draw upon: During his sophomore year of high school in San Diego, Calif., he banged his shoulder into a parked car while playing football in the street and, later in the year, during baseball season, his arm snapped while he was throwing a pitch. Turned out, it was a stress reaction to the football incident.

"Anytime you break your arm and they tell you you're never going to pitch again, any other injury is not going to stop you," Hamels said.

As for Madson, his Phillies' teammate from 2006-2011, Hamels grimaced. Partly because of the simple humanity of the situation, and partly because of the way Madson's contract negotiations blew up on him over the winter. Madson thought he had a four-year, $44 million deal with the Phillies during the winter, but the club suddenly turned and signed Jonathan Papelbon.

Madson wound up with a one-year, $8.5 million deal with the Reds, and now he's done for the year and headed for Tommy John ligament transfer surgery.

"It's probably one of the hardest things I've ever seen for a guy who worked his tail off, especially to go through that situation with his contract and free agency," Hamels said. "When you become a free agent, you're not looking for a one-year deal, you're looking for a multi-year deal.

"Something obviously didn't go right. And now he'll be coming off surgery headed into free agency again. You're hoping teams trust his ability.

"It's a pretty successful surgery now. That's the only good thing. He's saving a year's worth of bullets."

Sunblock Day? Big comeback after a rainy night. Sunny and 80s -- Florida has been a broken record this spring, in a good way. A hard rain woke me up Sunday night, the drops pelting against my hotel window (and not much wakes me up). Cloudy Sunday morning, but they're breaking up.

Likes: Seeing older couples out for early morning walks together as I'm driving to one or another team's camp as the sun is coming up. Sweet. ... Sign in Orioles clubhouse: "Days Until We Break Camp: 11" ... Ed Smith Stadium and the spectacular Orioles' complex in Sarasota. Well done, Orioles. ... Jim Thome and Charlie Manuel's life-long bro-mance. Funny seeing Thome back in a Phillies uniform. ... Channelside Bay Plaza in Tampa. Cool area.

Dislikes: Chipper Jones out until mid-April because of knee surgery. That's no way to begin your final season, is it? But it's no surprise. ... Had gone two weeks in Florida before finally quaffing a Rum Runner the other night over dinner. Such a Florida thing, I try to have one every spring.

Rock 'n' Roll Lyric of the Day:

"Too bad that you couldn't see
"See the man that boy could be
"There is more than meets the eye
"I see the soul that is inside"

-- Avril Lavigne, Sk8tr Boi
 
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