Each start from Orioles right-hander Jason Hammel brings the same questions about the differences between then and now, what’s made him better, what he’s doing differently, how much confidence he’s gained.
He’s going to have to start mixing his answers like he does his pitches.
“I continue to work hard, pay attention to the league,” he said after tonight’s 3-0 victory over Toronto. “I’m still learning a new league and see what everybody else is doing. Apply my game where it applies. Just try to pound the zone and keep the guys in the ballgame.”
And strike out a bunch of opposing hitters.
“I couldn’t care less about strikeouts,” he said. “Strikeouts drive your pitch count up. What I’m really concerned about is first-pitch strikes, and I was terrible at that tonight, believe it or not. But coming back, throwing sinkers down in the zone, getting good swings on an aggressive ballclub like this, that’s why I was able to pitch into the seventh.”
The Blue Jays didn’t have a fly ball through five innings.
“In Colorado, you’ve got to keep the ball down,” he said. “And coming over here, another hitter’s park, the focus should be the bottom of the zone, anywhere you pitch. But I really, really start to put a lot of emphasis on making sure my misses are going to be down. Obviously, the two-seamer has been a huge help just boring down, good tilt and getting a lot of swings. If I’m aggressive in the zone, it forces them to swing, and if I can get them to hit a two-seamer on the ground, it’s only going to help the cause.
“I’ve worked hard on my delivery to make sure I can repeat a pitch. Every time you throw a pitch, it should look the same, just a different finger placement, obviously, for the pitches. If you can make everything look the same, you’re going to get a lot of swings. Four-seam, two-seam, slider, all should be coming off the same plane. I think we are doing that really well right now.”
So what about that confidence?
“For a long time, it took me a while to build confidence,” he said. “I got hit around a bit. Only when I started to care about being a pitcher did my confidence go up. Obviously, the results are showing it. I’m not overconfident. I know what I need to do to be successful. Use my fielders to make the plays and just continue to make the pitches. I’m going to keep working on it. There are definitely things I need to continue to work on. but we’re playing great baseball.
“The end of last year, I learned how to pitch, using what I have and bringing it to the table and make it successful.”