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    Alex Speier

    Cole Hamels rumors growing, but Red Sox aren’t buying

    Philadelphia Phillies starting pitcher Cole Hamels throws a pitch during the first inning of a baseball game against the Washington Nationals, Saturday, April 11, 2015, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Michael Perez)
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    The Cole Hamels trade rumor mill is ramping up.

    While the Cole Hamels trade rumor mill has accelerated, the Red Sox’ own exploration of the trade market for starting pitchers has not.

    According to a major league source, the Red Sox have not intensified their pursuit of starting pitchers through trades despite the dismal performance of their rotation to date. While the team’s starters have a 6.03 ERA through the season’s first 21 games — including a 7.48 mark in the last 16 contests — the Sox continue to expect improvement to come from the same group of starters that have produced those poor results.

    “We acknowledge the performance of the pitching staff and we know it needs to improve. We still believe it will simply by our pitchers pitching to their capability,” GM Ben Cherington said in an email. “We don’t need them to do more than that. We believe if we pitch to our capability we will win games. We’re focused on helping the guys that are here now pitch to their capability.”

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    That outlook comes at a time when the drumbeat of early-season rumors is louder than usual, particularly involving Phillies ace Hamels.

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    The combination of Philadelphia’s rebuilding efforts and a slew of early-season rotation issues for contenders – the Sox’ struggles as well as injuries to key members of the Cardinals (Adam Wainwright), Dodgers (Brandon McCarthy), Rangers (Yu Darvish), and Yankees (Masahiro Tanaka), among others – has created an air of considerable expectation around the possibility of Hamels being dealt. The Phillies, certainly, are doing little to diminish that sense.

    The Philadelphia Daily News reports the Phillies will dispatch former manager Charlie Manuel, now a member of the team’s front office, to scout the Red Sox’ High A Salem affiliate this week.

    Manuel spent a significant chunk of the 2014 season evaluating the Red Sox farm system as well, and has a solid feel for it from top to bottom. Salem’s roster is headlined by 20-year-old center fielder Manuel Margot. The report suggested that a combination of Margot and one of the Red Sox’ top lefthanded starting prospects (Eduardo Rodriguez, Henry Owens, or Brian Johnson) likely would represent the best potential package the Phillies could secure for Hamels.

    Margot is a five-tool talent whom Salem manager Carlos Febles compared to his former teammate, Carlos Beltran.

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    “I told my hitting coach that he reminds me a lot of Carlos Beltran. I feel like they’re the same type of ballplayers,” Febles said earlier this month. “Margot’s a bit better offensively at his age . . . Margot is not a guy who’s going to hit 35-40 homers, because their bodies aren’t the same. Carlos was taller and stronger. But ability, they’re right there.”

    Phillies GM Ruben Amaro, in an interview with USA Today, did nothing to suggest that Hamels is unavailable. To the contrary, he described Hamels as a rotation difference-maker.

    “You’d be hard-pressed to find anyone, particularly lefthanded, better than him,” Amaro said. “Debate it all you want, from the sabermetrics to scout evaluations, but he is as good as there is going to be out there.

    “I understand that teams go through the first month of the season trying to assess what their needs are and what they have internally,” the GM added. “Some clubs will be all hellbent on contending. Other teams will be trying to decide whether they’re contenders or not. We understand that takes time.”

    Evidently, the Red Sox remain among those teams committed to exploring internal answers – foremost, working with the quintet of Clay Buchholz, Rick Porcello, Justin Masterson, Wade Miley, and Joe Kelly to try to achieve greater consistency. But until they do improve their results, the dialogue and rumors surrounding the need for change will remain constant.

    Alex Speier can be reached at alex.speier@globe.com.