The reward waiting for Cole Hamels

Updated: May 24, 2012, 9:56 AM ET
By Buster Olney

The answer, in the end, was that the Washington Nationals did not try to hit Cole Hamels with a baseball in response to the left-hander's admission that he had drilled Bryce Harper on purpose.

The Nationals didn't hit him with their bats, either, which makes them no different than the rest of baseball. Hamels shut out the National for eight innings, lowering his ERA to 2.17.

Before the first time Hamels faced the Nationals this year, Philadelphia Phillies manager Charlie Manuel spoke of how the left-hander has evolved in his time in the majors -- how he'd become more consistent and tougher. And Manuel talked along the same lines after Hamels' dominant outing Wednesday night, as Jerry Crasnick writes: "He's got a lot of determination," Manuel said. "He's a lot different than what you see. If you get to know him, he's a mentally tough guy. When he goes out there, he goes out there to beat you. He has a lot of conviction and confidence in his pitches."

Nine starts into the year, Hamels has built a foundation for one of the greatest free-agent launch pads in baseball history. He is setting himself up for an enormous payday, whether it comes from the Phillies or some other team.