By CHARLES ODUM
ATLANTA (AP) — The Atlanta Braves need new veteran leadership for a rotation that has lost Julio Teheran and Dallas Keuchel.
Left-hander Cole Hamels is eager to fill the void as pitchers and catchers report to spring training on Wednesday.
The 36-year-old Hamels, who signed an $18 million, one-year deal with Atlanta on Dec. 4, brings much-needed experience to a young rotation that also includes Mike Soroka, Max Fried and Mike Foltynewicz.
Soroka, who could be the team’s opening day pitcher, is only 22. Fried is 26. Foltynewicz is 28.
Hamels wants to be a resource for the young starters. He remembers such veterans as Roy Halladay set the example for him when he broke into the major leagues with Philadelphia in 2006.
“When I came up I was very fortunate to have an organization that looked into what veteran leadership is,” Hamels said last month. “They surrounded me with some of the best players and pitchers that I could ever been around. Roy Halladay, (Roy) Oswalt, Cliff Lee, Jamie Moyer, those are great guys to learn from and I think it helped me elevate my game and become a better pitcher.”
Hamels has 163 wins in 14 seasons with the Phillies, Texas Rangers and Chicago Cubs.
Almost every starting pitcher in camp is much younger than Hamels.
Félix Hernández, the former Seattle standout who will be in camp on a minor league contract as he tries to revive his career, also can be a role model for young pitchers. Hernández, who turns 34 in April, may compete with Sean Newcomb and rookie right-handers Kyle Wright, Ian Anderson and Bryse Wilson for the No. 5 spot in the rotation.
“You can’t see it all in this game, but they’ve come pretty close to seeing it all,” Anderson said of Hamels and Hernández.
Hamels should be especially helpful for Fried and Newcomb, left-handers who say they can’t wait to watch the veteran work. Fried said Hamels “is the person I’m most frequently compared to.”
Fried wants to learn more about Hamels’ changeup.
“Obviously, one of his biggest weapons is one I’ve been working on for a long time, so I’m excited to pick his brain on the changeup,” Fried said.
Hamels said it’s only fair that he share knowledge from his long career. After all, he said he picked up tips about pitching mechanics as a kid by watching former longtime Braves left-hander Tom Glavine, another master of the changeup, when most Atlanta games were televised by TBS.
“He was somebody I really looked at and wanted to have some similarities,” Hamels said of Glavine. “The changeup was a pitch I knew the importance of. It’s helped me to this day. … I tried to emulate his mechanics a little bit.”
Hamels was 7-7 with a 3.81 ERA in 27 starts with the Cubs last season. He was 6-3 with a 2.98 ERA in the first half before posting a 5.79 ERA in the second half.
Hamels said he rushed his return from an oblique injury last season and won’t make that mistake again. That’s only one of many lessons he said he’s eager to share because “I know where I’m at” as a veteran.
“I think that … I’m hopefully able to introduce some of the experiences I have, what’s really gotten me to where I am today and see if guys can learn from some of the advice that I have,” Hamels said.
Pitchers and catchers will have their first workout on Thursday at the Braves’ new spring training home in North Port, Florida. Position players report on Monday and the first full-squad workout is next Tuesday.