Back in 2006 the Phillies were undergoing a rebuilding period. New Phillies General Manager Pat Gillick dispatched outfielder and team leader at the time, Bobby Abreu, to the Yankees in a mid season trade and after that the team started to take off. One of the keys in the turnaround was a young 22 year old lefthanded pitcher and first round draft pick, Cole Hamels, who was making his move up the ladder of the Phillies farm system at the time. He would only make eight starts that season in the minors, one at Lakewood, four at Clearwater and three at Scranton/Wilkes Barre.
I will never forget the excitement Hamels generated at the time in the minors with a moribund major league team going nowhere. GM Gillick would travel to see his starts, team President Dave Montgomery explained in an interview at the time how he followed his action on the internet and I watched my first game ever on Milb-TV when Hamels pitched in a pink uniform for Breast Cancer Awareness on a Sunday afternoon for SWB.
Hamels made which was probably the best eight starts in row by one pitcher in Phillies minor league history to earn a mid season call up that season. He would go 3-1 and pitch 49 innings, giving up 29 hits, six earned runs, walk 12 and strike out 68 for a 1.10 ERA. He would later make his major league debut that season and go 9-8 with a 4.o8 ERA in 23 starts. The rebuilt Phillies helped by Hamels and a deal for pitcher Jamie Moyer would come within one game of making the playoffs in 2006. After that as we would say the rest is history as the Phillies would make the playoffs for the next five years including a two World Series appearances and winning one led by their ace Cole Hamels.
This season with the Clearwater Threshers another young 22 year old left-hander, Hoby Milner, maybe an inch shorter and 30 lbs. lighter than Hamels, has put together another outstanding eight starts for the Threshers. In his last two starts in April and all six starts in May, Milner has come close to matching the legendary eight minor league starts of Hamels back in 2006 on his way to the show.
In his last eight starts Milner has gone 5-0 and pitched 48 innings, giving up 41 hits, 11 earned runs, walked 10 and struck out 47 for a 2.06 ERA. Not quite Hamelsesque but amazingly close to what Cole achieved before he got the call. Other similarities do exist too. The 2013 Phillies appear to need a major rebuilding just like the 2006 team needed. In addition to the same age as Hamels was when he broke into the majors, Milner has an eerie build similar to him as well. Difference do exist. Hoby does not have the Hamels change up but has better command and he was a seventh round draft pick out of the University of Texas in 2012 where he did more relieving than starting.
If the 2013 Phillies are to turn it around and compete for a playoff berth, the 2006 season would be a good model to follow. I have no doubt, from watching Hoby Milner pitch this season with the Threshers, he could play the 2006 role of Cole Hamels if they do chose to rebuild.