Royals RHP Jason Hammel moves around, turns season around

Royals General Manager Dayton Moore suddenly had a gaping hole in the rotation after the death of Yordano Ventura in a vehicle accident on January 22nd in the Dominican Republic. Jason Hammel was unsigned after his former club, the Chicago Cubs, captured the 2016 World Series Crown. Moore promptly signed the right-handed pitcher to a two-year $16 million contract on February 8.

After a slow start in 2017, Jason Hammel said he has “absolutely” turned his season around.

“One hundred percent it’s changed for sure,” Hammel said. “I’m not a guy to make excuses, but having been a guy that’s been traded at the deadline before, I understand new dwellings, new surroundings, new teammates, different expectations and throw that all on top of competing at the best level in baseball, it can be a little tough at times.

“You’re not necessarily trying to prove yourself, you also want to prove your worth and get off to that good start. I wasn’t pitching up to standards at the beginning of the season.”

“I was very frustrated the way things were going at the beginning part of the season, but at some point I knew they would turn around. You try to ride the wave of the ups and downs and try not to get out too far of your comfort zone.”

“Working with new catchers me and Salvy (Salvador Perez) and me and Drew (Butera). There are a lot of things of that goes into success. Obviously, confidence breeds confidence. The idea of coming in and working hard every day and staying in that routine, doesn’t mean we’re robots and once we figure something out that it’s going to be that way every time. We’re going to make mistakes. We’re human. That kind of gets misconstrued through the media.

Sometimes you are doing so well, you’re on top of the world and everybody expects that every time especially with what we’re being paid. It’s all relevant to the fact, yeah there are outside things that are out of our control as long as we continue to do what we need to do we can right the ship.”

Jason Hammel was born in South Carolina and spent most of his early years in Pittsburgh. Through high school he played baseball and many other sports.

“I also played soccer, basketball, golf, those were the major ones,” Hammel said. “I loved football, but I didn’t play on the football team. My dad hated football, so he put the nix on that pretty quickly. They had fall baseball, but I didn’t play because I wanted to play soccer.”

Jason Hammel, who is listed at 6-6, gained a nickname in soccer.

“I was always one of the big guys. My soccer buddies called me – I probably shouldn’t say this because it’s incriminating – but they would always call me ‘daddy long legs.’

“We had small shorts back then.

I couldn’t stand them. This is when I was 11 or 12. Styles have changed. It looked like underwear on me because my legs were so long. That’s my story.”

It was baseball where Jason Hammel excelled.

The Seattle Mariners picked him in the 23rd round in 2000 as a draft-and-follow. “They made an offer, but not an offer I should have taken. Basically through that offer, I got my associates degree in general studies,” Hammel said.

The Rays drafted Hammel in the 19th round in 2001, but he still did not sign. He returned for his sophomore season and Tampa Bay drafted him again in 2002, this time in the 10th round, and he signed.

He made his big league debut on April 11, 2006 with the Rays at age 23. He allowed seven runs on eight hits and a walk in 3 1/3 innings in a loss to Baltimore. He made nine starts that season, going 0-6 with a 7.77 ERA.

Jason Hammel has pitched in the postseason for the Rays, Rockies, Orioles, Cubs and Athletics.  He has been traded three times, including in February 2012 for Jeremy Guthrie. The Cubs dealt him to the Athletics on July 4, 2014 with Chicago getting Addison Russell in the five-player deal. Hammel gave up the game winning hit to Salvador Perez in the Royals-A’s epic 2014 wildcard game.

He signed back with the Cubs after the season and won a career-high 15 games for them last season.

“It has to be last year with the Cubs, the World Series,” Hammel said of his favorite sports memory. “Having a career year for a club that had been essentially starved for a World Championship. Kind of everything that went through it, the ups, the downs, the following of Cubs fans. There are Cubs fans everywhere and they always are very acknowledging when they see me out.

It was a year for the ages really. To be a part of that I feel very blessed and obviously special to be a part of that.”

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Article by Alan Eskew

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