Final in 8
1:05 PM ET, March 18, 2008
Bright House Networks, Clearwater, Florida
CLEARWATER, Fla. (AP) -- Cole Hamels wants to fine-tune his changeup and add zip to his fastball by opening day. He could win quite a few games with the stuff he has now.Hamels pitched six strong innings and Geoff Jenkins hit a two-run homer to lead the Philadelphia Phillies over the Tampa Bay Rays 4-2 on Tuesday.Hamels retired the first 14 batters before Evan Longoria homered in the fifth inning. He gave up one run and two hits, striking out seven in easily his best outing of the spring.But the All-Star left-hander still sees room for improvement."I have a few more miles per hour to go on my fastball before I'm up to par," Hamels said. "I'm trying to get the drop action on the changeup. I'm pushing it a little. I still want it to fade and drop a little more."Hamels entered with a 12.60 ERA and left with more confidence. He shook off a poor spring last year -- 1-3 with a 6.10 ERA -- and went 15-5 with a 3.39 ERA during the season, establishing himself as the team's ace and helping the Phillies win the NL East title.With Brett Myers returning to the rotation after a successful stint as a closer, Hamels will pitch the second game. If manager Charlie Manuel's decision to give Myers the top spot bothered Hamels, he didn't let on.But Hamels had plenty to say about his contract last month. He was miffed when the Phillies renewed him for $500,000 and indicated he'll remember that several years down the line when he can test free agency."I spoke my mind that day and the day after," Hamels said. "You get it out and go back to concentrating on baseball and being a team player because that's what all the guys have done at one point in their careers. It's the other side of the game. ... It's out the door and I'm focused on baseball and what I'm here to do and helping the team out."Hamels hadn't pitched in a major league game since March 7. He faced minor leaguers last Thursday after a bout with the flu forced him to miss a start a day earlier."He looked very good," Manuel said. "He threw pretty fluid."Rays starter Matt Garza gave up four runs -- three earned -- and four hits in six innings. It was the first time the right-hander allowed a run in three outings. Garza held the Yankees and Red Sox scoreless over 7 2-3 innings his last two trips to the mound."I have to keep working on little things, keep throwing strikes and getting outs," Garza said.A former first-round draft pick by Minnesota, Garza was 5-7 with a 3.69 ERA last year for the Twins. He's slated to be Tampa Bay's No. 3 starter.The Phillies (8-12) have won three straight after losing seven of eight. The Rays (13-4) have the best spring record in the majors.Hamels lost his bid for a perfect game when he grooved an 0-2 fastball to Longoria with two outs in the fifth. The rookie third baseman lined it into the left-field seats for his third homer."I'm definitely still trying to establish that inside fastball but that's the last thing that comes," Hamels said.Even if he remained perfect, Hamels wouldn't have pitched past the sixth in a meaningless game. Pitching a real no-hitter is among his lofty career goals along with winning a few Cy Young Awards."I'd rather have the perfect game when it really matters," Hamels said.Jenkins ripped a shot to right in the fourth inning for his first homer since joining the Phillies. The lefty-hitting Jenkins, who will platoon with Jayson Werth in right field, was batting .133 (6-for-45) before he connected."He's been trying kinda hard," Manuel said.