Phillies Notebook: Halladay: Hamels deserves to be Phillies' Opening Day starter

Posted: February 22, 2013

CLEARWATER, Fla. - Roy Halladay wasn't asked if it was a big deal to start on Opening Day, an honor he has held for 10 straight years.

He wasn't asked because the answer was obvious. Halladay did think it was an honor, or at least a symbolic gesture made every year by all 30 teams to anoint an official or unofficial ace.

Halladay understands how it works, and because of that, he gave a full endorsement for rotation-mate Cole Hamels. After starting on Opening Day for every year since 2003, including the last 3 years with the Phillies, Halladay is happy to hand the ball to Hamels if the team decides to go that route, as many suspect they will.

"It's his time," the 35-year-old Halladay said of the 29-year-old Hamels, the longest-tenured pitcher on the Phillies. "He's been here for a long time, he's had a lot of success here. There aren't many teams where you have a World Series MVP and then you bring in four, five guys to pitch in front of him. It should have been his spot a long time ago. I think it's something he's going to embrace."

Halladay said he actually has talked about it with Hamels.

"It's time for him now to kind of step up and take charge in those situations and establish himself as the head of the staff," Halladay said, relaying the conversation.

The Phillies haven't laid out the rotation for the regular season, but it would be somewhat surprising if it didn't mirror the order they're going with at the start of the spring. Hamels will pitch in Saturday's Grapefruit League opener, with Halladay pitching Sunday and Cliff Lee, Kyle Kendrick and John Lannan following in the next three games.

Pitching coach Rich Dubee said he'd prefer to split the lefthanders at the top of the rotation and that the three All-Stars would pitch in Atlanta for the first three games of the season. Halladay, who missed nearly 2 months of 2012 with a shoulder ailment in an injury-plagued year while Hamels went to the All-Star Game, is completely OK with that order.

"I think you earn it year to year," Halladay said. "I don't care what you've done in baseball, what you've done in the game. I've always believed you come in every year to earn your spot in spring training and he earned his spot last year as the Opening Day starter. He deserves that and I think that's the way it should be."

Hamels never has pitched on Opening Day. He was scheduled to do so in 2009, but was pushed back before the start of the season with a minor elbow issue.

Roy feeling fine

Halladay threw to hitters for the second time this week in a live bullpen session Thursday morning.

It was the last side session before his Grapefruit debut on Sunday in Lakeland (against Justin Verlander). Halladay is content with his progression so far and his health, too.

"I haven't had a day where I've been sore from the core up," Halladay said. "Those first couple of days, you're going to be sore. Your legs will be sore from the drills and stuff, but from the core up I haven't been sore, and that's a good sign. When you're trying to play catch-up early in camp and you're trying to keep your arm going, that's the tough part of spring training. If you can avoid that, that's always a good sign, so I feel good going forward."

Halladay was given the option to pitch in a simulated game instead on Sunday, but opted to face opposing hitters in a real-game atmosphere.

Charlie eager

There comes a moment in every spring training where the workouts become tired and everyone is ready for games. It's usually after the first workout.

Needless to say, Charlie Manuel is ready for games to begin. The Phils will play a five-inning intrasquad game on Friday before opening their Grapefruit League schedule in Clearwater on Saturday against the Houston Astros.

"Let me tell you guys something," Manuel said. "I'm anxious to see [Darin] Ruf, I'm anxious to see Ben Revere, I'm anxious to see Domonic Brown, I'm anxious to see our Rule 5 kid [Ender Inciarte]. I like the way he throws the ball and runs and catches the ball. I'm anxious to see Michael Young, I'm anxious to see [Chase] Utley and [Ryan] Howard. Hell, I'm anxious to see about all of them, really. Freddy Galvis. [Yuniesky] Betancourt.

"I think as we go on in spring training, the play and how we do and who makes our team and things like that, all that, we'll work our lineup out. Until we get into and start playing . . . when you watch guys in practice, you don't really see the game. The game is what really counts. I can tell you this: I know we've been putting in some good work and quality practice. But I'm anxious to see the game. I'm anxious to see all those guys. I'm anxious to see those young pitchers, I'm anxious to see Mike Adams, 'bout the whole team, really. I think that's what's going to determine our lineup, determine our pitching and everything. Put them out there and let them compete and we'll see."

Nix's bone spur

Laynce Nix is battling a bone spur in his right foot.

Nix, who is the early favorite as the Phils' top lefthanded hitter off the bench, is available to play, according to Manuel.

"He should be OK," the manager said.

Nix is in the second year of a 2-year, $2.5 million deal. He hit .246 in 70 games last season.

Nix spent more than 2 months in 2012 on the disabled list with a left calf strain.

On Twitter: @ryanlawrence21

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