By Bruce Levine–
CHICAGO (CBS) — Although the future for Cubs right-hander Jason Hammel is unclear, the oneness he expresses gives you a picture of the cohesive unit he plays with.
Hammel has pitched the best baseball of his career in 2016. Despite winning 15 games and being one of the starting pitching linchpins this season, he may be left off of the 25-man roster in the postseason.
The five-game NLDS to start the playoffs dictates a need of only four starting pitchers.With Jon Lester, Kyle Hendricks and Jake Arrieta having superior seasons and sub-3.00 ERAs, they’re locks. As for the last spot in that rotation, it’s worth remembering the veteran John Lackey was brought to Chicago last offseason with the postseason in mind. Lackey has an 8-5 record in the playoffs in his career and has won the clinchers of two World Series.
After getting hit hard to the tune of six runs in 2 1/3 innings of a 10-4 loss to the Cardinals on Saturday, Hammel stood his ground with grace and conviction when asked about the future. He was direct when asked about being on or off the first round 25-man playoff roster.
“I have answered that one before,” Hammel said. “Honestly, I would love to be a part of it, as the rest of the guys on the team would love to. I know there are only a certain amount of spots. If I am handed the ball, I will be ready.”
I watched Hammel work out daily in the offseason at Chicago’s famous East Bank Club. The grueling six-day routine Hammel devised included weight training, cardio and power track and field strength conditioning. Equally impressive was the work he did on the mental side of his game.
Hammel worked with a personal psychologist on his own self-esteem and inclusion of goals to build on. The end result appears to be a more confident, content person, teammate and player.
“This is the only way to view the situation,” Hammel said of being a team-first player. “I think everybody here has already been a part of something special. To get to this point,we are all very proud. We still have eight regular season ball games left. We can go out and build some momentum. It is postseason. Whether or not I am on the roster, I am still going to enjoy it.”
This type of selfless behavior displayed by Hammel and others has been a huge part of the Cubs’ success in 2016. It also bodes well for a team going into postseason as the odds-on favorite to win it all.
Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score and CBSChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.