Cole Irvin celebrates Mother's Day with first major-league win and a ride in a laundry cart

Cole Irvin celebrates Mother's Day with first major-league win and a ride in a laundry cart

KANSAS CITY — Over the last 15 games, Phillies starting pitchers have a glistening 2.36 ERA.

The latest gem was turned in by a guy who has never thrown hard enough to excite the folks who put together those Top 10 prospect lists, a guy who simply gets out and wins ballgames.

There’s nothing sexy about that other than … it’s what pitching is all about.

Cole Irvin won another one Sunday afternoon. Thirteen years to the day after another lefty with the same first name beat the Cincinnati Reds in his big-league debut, Irvin beat the Kansas City Royals, 6-1, in his first big-league start (see observations). Cole Hamels pitched five shutout innings in his debut. Irvin delivered seven innings of one-run ball as the Phils finished a 4-2 road trip and headed home seven games over .500, in first place in the NL East, and ready for a demanding 20-game stretch that will feature tests against some of the best clubs in the league.

“Man, that was fun,” Irvin said of his performance, witnessed in person by a couple of dozen friends and family members who had come in from the West Coast.

Irvin, 25, was the Phillies’ fifth-round pick out of the University of Oregon in the 2016 draft. Without a high-octane fastball, he relies on mixing a deep repertoire of pitches and throwing strikes. That approach helped him go 16-4 with a 2.50 ERA at Triple A since the start of the 2018 season and it helped him beat the Royals on Sunday. He scattered five hits, walked one and struck out five. He took control of at-bats by throwing a first-pitch strike to 22 of 27 batters.

“He did a great job mixing speeds,” catcher J.T. Realmuto said. “He kept them off balance the whole time. He attacked hitters, got ahead of guys. He had a good mix of pitches. Can't ask for much more out of the guy than that.

“Five minutes before the game, he was just chatting it up, smiling. He didn't seem too nervous at all, which is pretty comforting from my end knowing that it's just another game for him. That's how he treated it.”

Irvin said he was more nervous when he joined the team after scheduled starter Vince Velasquez (sore elbow) went on the injured list Saturday. Irvin got word of his promotion in the wee hours of the morning and flew to Kansas City on two hours sleep. He was well rested for Sunday’s start.

“I slept like a rock last night because I didn’t have any sleep the night before,” he joked.

Irvin was supported by six runs in the fifth inning. The Phils lost the first game of the series, 5-1, then won the next two by a combined score of 13-1. Starting pitching was spectacular in those two games. Zach Eflin preceded Irvin’s gem with a shutout Saturday night.

“Cole did a great job just attacking the strike zone and inducing weak contact,” manager Gabe Kapler said. “He had a crisp pace and it was just enormous for him to give our bullpen just one more day to get ready for that Milwaukee series.”

The Phils host the high-flying Brewers for four games beginning Monday night. Irvin lines up to pitch again Friday night at home in the series opener against Colorado.

Also during the 20-game stretch, the Phils will see the Cubs, Dodgers, Rockies, Cardinals and Brewers again. It's a good chance to see how the Phils stack up against some other top teams in the league, right?

"I don’t know that we’re looking to see how we stack up against teams," Kapler said. "We're just looking to beat them."

After Irvin won his debut on Sunday, his teammates celebrated by placing him in a laundry cart, wheeling him into the shower and dousing him with cold beer. Irvin actually had to shower and put his uniform back on to go out to the field to pose for a picture with family and friends. His mom, Sandy, was in town from Oregon. It was an unforgettable Mother’s Day for her and her son.

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Today, we check in on someone Phillies fans know well, veteran lefty Cole Hamels.

The vitals

It feels funny typing those words — veteran lefty — but that's just what Hamels is now. He turns 36 in December. Hard to believe for those of us who remember the squeaky-voiced teenager who showed up at Veterans Stadium for a news conference after the Phillies selected him 17th overall in the 2002 draft. Six years later, Hamels was MVP of the National League Championship Series and World Series as the Phillies won it all in 2008. 

Hamels was traded to Texas as the Phillies ramped up their rebuild in the summer of 2015 and now he's a free agent who still has something to offer. One-hundred fourteen of his 163 wins have come in a Phillies uniform. Will he come full circle and win a few more for the Phillies now that the rebuild is over?

Why he fits

Hamels is no longer the top-of-the-rotation pitcher he was during his prime in Philadelphia, but the Phillies need pitching up and down their rotation and he would make a lot of sense as a stabilizer at the back half of it. He had a 3.81 ERA for the Cubs in 27 starts last season but missed a month with an oblique injury suffered in late June. Hamels was quite good before the injury, recording a 2.98 ERA in 17 starts. He struggled and pitched to a 5.79 ERA in 10 starts after returning from the IL.

With an offseason to heal, Hamels will be healthy as he joins some team this winter and he should be able to deliver 150-160 innings. He did not receive a qualifying offer from the Cubs so he would not cost a draft pick.

Once upon a time, Hamels grew up as a young pitcher in Philadelphia under the tutelage of Roy Halladay. Hamels is a serious student of the craft of pitching. It would be poetic if he returned to Philadelphia and served as a mentor to some of the Phillies' young arms, and fans would certainly welcome his return as part of a pitching staff upgrade.

Why he doesn't fit

The only way we see a reunion not being a fit is if the market for Hamels gets extremely competitive and his price becomes more than the Phillies want to commit to a 36-year-old pitcher. The Phils will need a starting pitching upgrade beyond Hamels, but he'd be a solid second wintertime addition.

The price tag

As far back as May, Hamels talked about his desire to finish his career in Philadelphia. He recently told that he'd be open to a one-year contract. That's not exactly strategy out of the Negotiating 101 handbook and it hasn't stopped agent John Boggs from seeking a multi-year deal. Hamels made $20 million with Cubs last season. It's difficult to see him getting that much, but not difficult to see him getting something in the neighborhood of $17 million per season.

Scout's take

"He's no longer that middle-to-top-of-the-rotation guy, but a one-year deal should probably entice every team in the game. He really knows how to pitch. You look at the No. 4 guys in the league. If he's healthy, I'd have solid confidence in him in that role."

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Subscribe and rate At The Yard:
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