CHICAGO - The second-most famous Cole in Phillies history will pitch against the most famous Cole in Phillies history Wednesday night in Wrigley Field.
For Cole Irvin, who will take the mound for the Phillies against Cole Hamels, it's like winning the lottery.
"You know what's funny is I'm actually looking forward to meeting him here," Irvin said. "Back when I was in high school, he was a guy I modeled my changeup after, one of those guys that I really watched when I really started to get into pitching. I watched how he manipulated it, how he used it, how he sequenced it, how he used it in lanes and in what counts, if he needed a ground ball here or a fly ball there. I'd watch videos of him on YouTube. I'd study his grip and just how masterful he was with the pitch."
Irvin, 25, is 10 years Hamels' junior. He was drafted by the Phillies in July 2015, a month before the club traded Hamels to the Texas Rangers. The Phillies traded the former World Series MVP because they were in a rebuild. Now the rebuild is complete. The Phils are a first-place club. Hamels has moved on to the Chicago Cubs, another first-place club. On Wednesday night, the two Coles, both lefties from Southern California, will face each other and it's believed to be the first time two pitchers with that first name have done so.
Hamels has never pitched against the Phillies. They are the last team he has not faced. The Phillies have not seen him in person on a mound since July 25, 2015, the day he no-hit the Cubs in Wrigley Field in his last start with the Phillies.
It was a Hollywood ending for the guy they call Hollywood.
The Cubs traded for Hamels last summer and picked up his $20 million contract option this winter. He will be a free agent in the offseason. Hamels is off to a good start with the Cubs. He is 4-4 with a 3.13 ERA in nine starts.
Irvin is off to a good start in his big-league career. He made his big-league debut less than two weeks ago in Kansas City - 13 years to the day after Hamels' big-league debut - and pitched seven shutout innings against the Royals. He came back with six strong innings in a win over Colorado on Friday.
The Phillies will ride Irvin as long as he's successful and if that means Vince Velasquez, now healthy, can't break back into the rotation, well, internal competition is a beautiful thing for a team. It sharpens everyone. Velasquez has long been viewed as a reliever in waiting. Maybe if the Phillies had an arm like that, one capable of pitching multiple innings in that fifth-through-seventh-inning range in close games, they'd have more weapons for the back end of games and be able to avoid debacles like the one that occurred Tuesday night in Wrigley Field (see story).
Irvin is a cerebral pitcher. He is not a guy who lights up the radar gun. He moves the ball around, changes speeds, reads swings, throws strikes and relies on a deep repertoire of pitches, including the changeup he modeled after Hamels, the man he will oppose in Wrigley Field on Wednesday night. The Cubs have a powerful lineup and Wrigley Field can be an intimidating environment. But Irvin has a little familiarity with the place. He pitched there in the summer of 2011 in the Under Armour All-American game for high school players.
"I'm ready to go," Irvin said.
And when it's over, maybe before Thursday's series finale, he'll get the chance to meet Hamels.
"His spots to eat in Philly, for sure," Irvin said with a laugh.
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