Jason Hammel was all set to report to spring training in Arizona with the Colorado Rockies. After today’s trade to the Orioles, along with Matt Lindstrom for Jeremy Guthrie, the 29-year-old right-hander will now be heading to Sarasota soon to join his new team.
“Obviously, it was a surprise this morning,” Hammel told reporters via a conference call this afternoon. “My plans had basically been finished for spring training in Arizona, but that doesn’t change anything. Baseball doesn’t change for me. It’s a new venue now but I’m excited to come over and help out the club in Baltimore.
“I was able to learn some things about myself and really take some steps in the mental part of the game at the end of the season last year. I’m excited to go join the rotation with the Orioles.”
Hammel went 7-13 with a 4.76 ERA with the Rockies last year but had a road ERA of 4.28. He was a 10th-round draft pick of Tampa Bay in 2002 and pitched as both a starter and reliever with the Rays in 2006-2008 before joining the rotation full-time with the Rockies. Now he’s headed back to the American League East.
“I’m familiar with the AL East. Having not been there the last few years things have a changed a little bit. I don’t know the lineups like I did when I was with the Rays, but there is some familiarity for me. It will be a challenge and I have to learn new guys. Also, I’m excited to get to know and work with Matt Wieters,” he said.
“But no matter what league you play in, the game doesn’t change. It comes down to execution and making pitches. But as for the lineups, I’ll have to learn some new faces for sure.”
Hammel’s strikeout rate decreased from 7.1 to 5.0 per nine innings last year and his walk rate went up a bit as well, and he was asked about that today on the conference call with Baltimore reporters.
“You know, I was thinking the same thing and trying to figure out what it was. Also my walks went up a little. Command-wise, I was messing around with mechanics and things to help and was actually hurting myself, so that’s what I got back to toward the end of the season. Just hit a rough patch last year where I was in a pretty bad place and worked out of it. I’m very confident that is behind me now and I’ve worked real hard this offseason to prepare for spring and the season coming,” Hammels added.
Hammels pitched in the playoffs in 2009 and, even though the Rockies won just four more games than the O’s did last year, he was on winning teams two of his three seasons there.
“I’ve been lucky to be on some successful teams,” he said. “But I was on a Rays team that lost 100 games. I’ve seen both ends. But we are out there to win and it’s about putting the right guys together. These guys wouldn’t be in the big leagues if they weren’t good,” Hammels said.
“It’s all a matter of development and experience. I’ve gained some good experience over the last few years and I can help some of the younger guys. I’m still learning too. I want to go out and win and that is my thought for this season and beyond.”
Lindstrom also joins the Orioles after working out of the bullpen for Colorado last year, going 2-2 with an ERA of 3.00 in 63 games.
“I have a teammate in Kevin Gregg who I spent a couple of years in Florida with. He’s someone I looked up to a lot. I look forward to picking his brain again and forming a formidable bullpen at the end of the game,” the 31-year-old Lindstrom said.
Lindstrom worked mostly in the seventh and eighth innings last year, but does have 45 career saves and recorded 23 in 2010 with Houston. He would welcome a shot to get some saves chances in Baltimore.
“Yeah, absolutely. I’ve had some chances before in 2009 and 2010 with the Marlins and Astros to go out and get saves. You know, I had some ups and downs. Preparing for the World Baseball Classic in ‘09, having to be ready March 1. Just kind of learned how to take care of my body a little better for a major league season, which is a grind. Need to continue to focus on not overtraining during the season. I look forward to maybe getting a chance to close some games down. Whether its the seventh, eighth or ninth, I try to use the same mind frame and approach whenever I go out there,” he said.
Lindstrom is 12-15 with an ERA of 3.81 in a career spent with Florida, Houston and Colorado. All 312 of his career appearances have come out of the bullpen. Last year, he pitched to a road ERA of 1.71 with the Rockies and had an opponent batting average against of just .232 when pitching with runners in scoring position.