Jason Hammel isn’t wasting a lot of time and energy thinking about his chances of making the All-Star team. Not with the Orioles 1 1/2 games out of first place in the American League East. Not with a much bigger carrot dangling in front of him.
“I honestly couldn’t care less about that,” he said. “I think we have something bigger going on here with the team. We’re playing good ball right now. If that were to happen, that’s awesome. There are other guys who are worthy, too, on this squad. I don’t think we’re really thinking about that right now. We’re just trying to compete and make it into the All-Star break going strong.”
Did Hammel imagine back in early April that he’d have this much success?
“I don’t know. I was just planning on having the year I was going to have,” he replied. “I like to put expectations on myself, and I hold myself to high expectations, but really all I wanted to do was get deep into ballgames. Two hundred innings is really all I wanted. You establish yourself as a workhorse and that’s something that’s pretty special.
“I really think I have a good feel for both sides of the game, mentally and physically, right now. Just coming out and competing, just throwing at the glove and attacking. Today was my best day command-wise, with no walks. I hate walking guys. I always focus on getting quick outs and today we did that.
“I was surprised I didn’t go back out in the ninth, but J.J. (Jim Johnson) hasn’t thrown that much, and obviously when he comes out there, it’s a done deal.”
Hammel was working on extra rest, something that might not happen in his next outing.
“It’s huge, especially for the knee, especially in the heat,” he said. “Tonight was definitely sticky and tiring. And it was something I’ve never played with. I’ve never played in this kind of climate. It’s nice to be able to just go out and continue to get deep into games.”
J.J. Hardy’s leaping catch to end the seventh allowed Hammel to come back out for the eighth with a 2-1 lead.
“I figured I’ll just start throwing the ball outside, let them dive out there and hit line drives to J.J. all night. Makes my job easy,” he said. “Quick outs when you get out there. That’s twice now where he has done that, a leaping grab to save a run. The game plays out differently if he doesn’t make that play, so hats off.”
As for Hammel’s knee, he said “there’s days where it’s good and days when it’s bad. Today it was good.”
“Every outing, as I get deeper in the games, it’s not as sore, so it’s definitely headed in the right direction,” he added. “It all depends on workload, really, just staying off it and treating it and sticking with the same program.”
Hammel isn’t consumed with the idea of making the All-Star team, but Hardy endorses him.
Asked if Hammel deserves the honor, Hardy replied, “Definitely. I voted for him today.”
So what about that leaping catch?
“I didn’t know,” Hardy said. “I jumped as high as I could and it just went into my mitt.”
Hammel said he owes Hardy a steak dinner.
“No, not at all,” Hardy said. “We owe him a steak dinner for working fast and pitching the way he’s been pitching.”
You can assume that catcher Matt Wieters also voted for Hammel on his All-Star ballot.
“Definitely,” he said. “I’ve been able to catch most of his starts and he gives us a great chance to win when we go out there, which is all you can ask for.”