4/14 Hammel starts Interleague play
The Cubs play the Yankees on Tuesday, the first of eight Interleague series this season, and Jason Hammel will get it started. Hammel is well-versed in the Yankees, having faced them 17 times while pitching for the Rays and Orioles. He’s pitched at both old and new Yankee Stadium, too.
“They’ve always been a team that is very patient and a lot of their guys at the top and the bottom of the order just battle and put the ball in play,” Hammel said.
His last outing vs the Yankees was July 7 when he threw 102 pitches over five innings, giving up six hits and one run, while with the Orioles.
“I think I had 25-something foul balls,” he said. “My pitch count was done in like the fourth inning.”
The Yankees may not have reached the postseason last year, but Hammel knows not to overlook them.
“They’re a perennial powerhouse and find a way to win and the organization is committed to their players, that’s how they do it,” Hammel said. “That being said, there’s still a way to beat them. I’ve faced them many times and had some success. You just have to keep the ball down there.”
So, which does he prefer, the old or new version of Yankee Stadium?
“Old Yankee Stadium, I still have that as my top stadium,” he said. “I love Fenway — I live in Massachusetts now, and love going to Fenway — but the feeling you got when you walk on the mound of the old stadium was something else. You felt like you were in the middle of nowhere because of the way their first level seating went way back and wasn’t really staggered and it felt so cool.
“Now it’s different,” he said. “It’s the same size but it almost has lost the intimidation factor because you see the young teams like the Rays and Orioles now contending over there. You go in there and you know you can beat them. Before, you’d go into Yankee Stadium [and be happy] to take one.”
This series will mark the Cubs’ first-ever regular season games at new Yankee Stadium, the 122nd different ballpark in which the team will have played. After Tuesday, the Cubs will have played a regular-season game in every current Major League city and a game in every active ballpark.
The Cubs did play the first two games in the history of new Yankee Stadium, however, when the teams met in exhibition action prior to 2009. The Yankees won both games.
Heading into this season, the Cubs have played in three ballparks for the first time in the last two seasons, including O.co Coliseum in Oakland in 2013 as well as Marlins Stadium and Target Field in 2013.
Hammel hopes some of the young Cubs who have never played at Yankee Stadium aren’t overwhelmed.
“It’s awe inspiring when you walk in there [to new Yankee Stadium] because everything is so big and modern and exciting to play there,” he said. “It’s one of those bucket list-type places. Yankee Stadium, it’s an eye opener and so much fun to be there.”
— Carrie Muskat