Cole Hamels coming back to Philadelphia and the mound on which he won World Series MVP

Cole Hamels coming back to Philadelphia and the mound on which he won World Series MVP

SAN FRANCISCO — Well, this ought to be pretty good theater.

The Chicago Cubs come to Philadelphia for a three-game series on Tuesday and Cole Hamels is scheduled to start Wednesday night’s game.

Against Aaron Nola.

Not a bad matchup.

Hamels, who spent 10 seasons with the Phillies and won a World Series in Citizens Bank Park, has never pitched as an opponent in the ballpark. He returned with the Cubs last season, but did not pitch in the series.

Hamels pitched against the Phillies in Wrigley Field in May. He lasted just four innings, but his team did win the game, 8-4.

Nola, who ultimately succeeded Hamels as the Phillies’ top starter, was drafted in 2014. He rose to the majors in July 2015 and he and Hamels were briefly teammates. Nola was with the Phillies for Hamels’ last start with the ballclub — an unforgettable no-hitter in Wrigley Field against the Cubs on July 25 of that year. Hamels was traded to Texas a couple of days later. He joined the Cubs in a trade last season.

Hamels, 35, is 6-3 with a 3.09 ERA in 19 starts for the Cubs this season. He missed the month of July with an oblique injury but has made two starts, allowing four earned runs in eight innings in a pair of Cubs’ wins, since returning from the disabled list.

Hamels will be a free agent at season’s end. Back in May, he talked about the possibility of returning to Philadelphia to finish his career (see story). 

The series kicks off with Jason Vargas taking on Jose Quintana on Tuesday night. Yu Darvish and Drew Smyly are the scheduled starters for the series finale on Thursday.

The Cubs lead the NL Central.

The Phillies enter Sunday night’s game 1½ games back in the NL wild-card race. They have lost four of six games in their West Coast trip and have dropped into fourth place in the NL East, passed by the once-presumed-dead New York Mets, who have won 15 of 16.

The Phillies led the NL East by 3 ½ games on May 29. They are 27-35 since then as they prepare to send Jake Arrieta to the mound Sunday night.

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Odubel Herrera apologizes to Phillies and Phillies fans in first public statement since arrest

AP Images

Odubel Herrera apologizes to Phillies and Phillies fans in first public statement since arrest

CLEARWATER, Fla. — In his first public statement since his arrest on domestic violence charges in May, Odubel Herrera apologized to the Phillies organization and the team’s fans on Tuesday.

“There’s no one who regrets this more than me,” the 28-year-old outfielder told a small group of reporters at Phillies spring training camp.

Herrera, who is in minor-league camp, showed up on the major-league side shortly before noon and spoke through Diego Ettedgui, the team’s Spanish-language translator.

“I wanted to talk to you guys today because I wanted to say I’m sorry to the fans and the organization,” Herrera said.

“I’m very regretful for what I did. It’s been a lesson learned for me and I want to turn the page and keep going with life.”

Herrera was arrested on May 27 in Atlantic City for assaulting his girlfriend, Melany Martinez-Angulo. The charges were dropped in July, but Herrera was suspended by Major League Baseball for 85 games without pay. He did not appeal the suspension, which was the extent of the punishment that MLB could issue.

By rule, Herrera was reinstated to the Phillies’ 40-man roster when his suspension ended. In January, the Phillies removed him from the 40-man roster and assigned him to the minor leagues. The policy on domestic violence between MLB and the Players Association forbids releasing a player or voiding his contract for violating the policy.

The Phillies still owe Herrera $20 million through the 2021 season. Club officials have said that Herrera will have to “earn” his way back to the big leagues, but there’s no guarantee that will happen because the Phillies have added outfield depth since his suspension. The club can release Herrera – with full pay – for baseball reasons and five weeks in minor-league camp can offer many potential baseball reasons.

“I’m training hard,” Herrera said. “I’m a man of faith so if the Phillies give me a second chance, I would take advantage of that and play my hardest.

“Really, what I want to say today is that I’m very thankful to the Phillies for what they’ve done for me, thankful to the fans because they’ve always been great to me. They’ve always shown me love and appreciation and I don’t take that for granted.”

There are players who have returned to the majors after domestic violence suspensions. But there are others, such as Addison Russell, who are currently out of the game.

Even if the Phillies keep Herrera in the minors in April and allow him to get on a path toward earning his way back to the majors, there are serious questions about whether he’d be accepted back in the clubhouse by teammates. Herrera said he had not yet had the opportunity to apologize to them.

“It’s something that I would like to do and hopefully this interview here can help me do that,” he said. “To me it’s really important to say sorry to my teammates, to my fans, to the organization. That’s key to me.”

Herrera said he “would like to think” his teammates would accept him back.

“We’re all human beings,” he said. “We all make mistakes. I’ve spent a great amount of time with some of them. They are great people. Hopefully they will accept me back and help me go through this.”

Herrera and his girlfriend are still together. He said he participated in two months of counseling in Philadelphia and found it “beneficial.” He also made a donation to the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

“What I can tell you about that night is that I’m very sorry,” Herrera said. “Melany and I have had a very long relationship. Like every couple, sometimes you argue. Sometimes there are problems. But we’ve grown as a couple. We have a healthy relationship. We’ve learned from that.

“It was an unfortunate situation. I would say it was the lowest point in our relationship. But it’s not my regular behavior.

“Honestly, this whole process has helped me become a better version of me, especially the counseling sessions in Philly. They were great. 

“There’s no one who regrets this more than me. It’s one of those things that I learned from and tried to get better from.”

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Designers of Phillie Phanatic call new Phanatic an 'affront' to Phils fans

Designers of Phillie Phanatic call new Phanatic an 'affront' to Phils fans

Bonnie Erickson and Wayde Harrison, the designers of the original Phanatic costume in the late-1970s who are currently involved in a lawsuit against the Phillies, responded Tuesday to the unveiling of the "new" Phanatic Sunday in Clearwater.

This was their statement:

"The Phillies lack of good faith in negotiating for an extension of the copyright assignment for the Phillie Phanatic is disappointing. But the unveiling of the so-called 'new' Phanatic on Sunday is an affront to our intellectual property rights and to Phillies fans everywhere.

"For more than 40 years, we have worked closely with the Phillies, making all the Phanatic costumes, providing artwork and ideas until June of 2018," added Bonnie Erickson. "The Phanatic has performed successfully for the Phillies and the city of Philadelphia for decades. The 'business decision' by the Phillies to roll out this 'new' Phanatic is a transparent attempt to deny us our rights under of the Copyright Act. We would love to have the real Phanatic continue with the Phillies."

The Phillies purchased rights to the Phanatic in 1984, but federal law allows artists to renegotiate rights to their work after 35 years.

In 2018, Erickson and Harrison informed the Phillies that they would seek to wrest the rights to the Phanatic away from the team unless it paid them millions. Last year, the Phillies filed a lawsuit against Erickson and Harrison in New York federal court to keep their beloved mascot. The Phillies contend that the Phanatic's four-decade rise from a costume to a Philadelphia sports and cultural icon is the result of their own creative forces and investment and therefore makes the creature property of the team.

The Phillies' rights to the Phanatic will expire on June 15, but the club is hoping the latest round of creative changes will be enough to legally continue its use of the Phanatic.

The new-look Phanatic debuted during Sunday's spring training game in Clearwater and some fans were shaken to the core.

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