Final Vote candidate Hammel turning heads
Right-hander currently third in latest voting update released Wednesday
SEATTLE -- As Jason Hammel puts it, he was tired of getting his teeth knocked in.
Demoted to the Rockies' bullpen in 2011 after a three-inning outing in which he allowed six earned runs, the soon-to-be 29-year-old Hammel had a 5.24 ERA and a track record of inconsistency. There were whispers about his competitive fire, questions that first surfaced when he came up as a prospect through the Tampa Bay Rays system, and continued when he was traded out West. When he received word in mid-August that he was going to be used as a reliever, Hammel knew something had to change.
"It was more of a decision for my career that I had to make an adjustment," said Hammel, who's had a coming-out party with the Orioles, pitching to a 3.43 ERA in 16 starts. "If I was going to continue to go down that path [from last season], obviously I wasn't going to be in the big leagues for much longer.
"Learning, obviously, by failure, is one of the best things that you can do. Some guys come up and have a lot of success early and then they don't know what to do when they fail. Unfortunately, I can say I failed a lot, and it takes a while. If you're a smart guy, you will learn from failure. And that's basically what's happening with me."
With the reemergence of his two-seamer and more of an edge, Hammel has thrust himself into the national spotlight as the surprising Orioles have just their second winning first-half record since 1998. He was named as one of five American League Final Vote candidates for this year's All-Star Game and was in third place when Wednesday's update was released. Yu Darvish of the Rangers leads, followed by White Sox right-hander Jake Peavy. Royals closer Jonathan Broxton is fourth and Angels reliever Ernesto Frieri is fifth.
"Last year in Colorado, if he didn't make the exact pitch he wanted to make at that time, he showed a little bit of frustration out on the mound," said reliever Matt Lindstrom, who came over with Hammel in this winter's trade for Jeremy Guthrie. "Hitters can kind of see that, and say, 'Oh he didn't mean to throw that pitch.' Now he will throw a bad pitch and he's just like, 'Give me the ball back, here comes the next one.'
"And I think that's the biggest difference. I don't really see emotion on the mound from Jason this year."
Described as a bulldog by several of his teammates and manager Buck Showalter, Hammel is trying to go to his first All-Star Game, and the Orioles are doing everything in their power to help drum up support.
Fans voting for Hammel will be eligible to win a VIP Meet & Greet with the pitcher, parking and four field box seat tickets to an Orioles home game in July or August. In addition, fans who vote online at orioles.com/finalvote at least 20 times for Hammel and select the Orioles as their "favorite" or "other favorite" team can receive a 50 percent discount offer for up to four tickets to an Orioles home game from July 24-29.
Now in its 11th year, the 2012 All-Star Game MLB.com Final Vote presented by Firestone gives baseball fans around the world the opportunity to select the final player on each All-Star team. Balloting began immediately following Sunday's Selection Show and continues until Thursday at 4 p.m. ET. The winners will be announced on MLB.com shortly thereafter.
To receive the 2012 All-Star Game MLB.com Final Vote presented by Firestone mobile ballot, text the word "VOTE" to 89269. To vote for Hammel, simply text message A4 to 89269. Mobile voting in Canada also is available, and fans should text their choices to 101010. Standard rates may apply.
Fans, having already decided the starters and final player on each team, once again will have the opportunity to participate in the official voting for the Ted Williams Most Valuable Player presented by Chevrolet via the 2012 MLB.com All-Star Game MVP Vote during the All-Star Game on MLB.com.
The 83rd Major League Baseball All-Star Game will be televised nationally by FOX Sports, in Canada by Rogers Sportsnet and RDS, and worldwide by partners in more than 200 countries via MLB International's independent feed. Pregame ceremonies begin at 7:30 p.m. ET. ESPN Radio and ESPN Radio Deportes will provide exclusive national radio coverage. MLB Network, MLB.com and Sirius XM also will provide comprehensive All-Star Game coverage.
There will be an extra treat for fans who participate in the Final Vote. If you are not a current MLB.TV subscriber (MLB.TV or MLB.TV Premium), you are eligible to receive a 14-day free trial of MLB.TV from July 6-20. If you are a current MLB.TV subscriber (MLB.TV or MLB.TV Premium), you will receive a 15 percent discount to the MLB.com Shop. MLB.com will send an email on July 6 to all Final Vote voters with instructions on how to redeem the applicable offer.
Brittany Ghiroli is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, Britt's Bird Watch, and follow her on Twitter @britt_ghiroli. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.