Phillies Notebook: Hamels will start Opening Day

Posted: March 15, 2013

CLEARWATER, Fla. - Thursday morning, before the gates opened for the fans and after the media left the clubhouse and made their way to the press box, Roy Halladay threw in the bullpen at Bright House Field.

It was a normal, between-starts side session - as pitching coach Rich Dubee kindly reminded the press corps later in the day - but it was also worth checking on considering Halladay's disastrous start 2 days earlier. According to Dubee, Halladay looked "wonderful."

Several hours after Halladay threw Thursday, the Phils officially announced that he wouldn't start the season. Not on Opening Day, that is.

Halladay's run of 10 straight Opening Day starts, the most among active major league starters, will come to an end when Cole Hamels takes the mound April 1 at Turner Field against the Atlanta Braves.

The announcement from the Phillies came a few hours after the team's 2-1 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates.

It wasn't exactly a surprise, as Hamels had been lined up for the start ever since Dubee printed out his first pitching schedule chart before the start of the Grapefruit League season. Hamels also started the exhibition season opener.

It's Hamels' first Opening Day assignment, which Halladay has wholeheartedly endorsed. When asked earlier this spring about the possibility of getting the honor, Hamels, a World Series MVP, said he values postseason starts more than one in April. But he wasn't against taking the ball, either.

"If you do get that honor, you just go out and stick to business and try to win a ballgame," Hamels said.

In addition to being a homegrown ace and the longest-tenured pitcher on the staff, Hamels avoided free agency and committed to the Phillies by signing a 6-year, $144 million extension in July.

Halladay, meanwhile, is likely to follow Hamels in the rotation in Atlanta, at least as long as he is healthy. The 35-year-old said he was "lethargic" in Tuesday's game, when he allowed seven runs on six hits and four walks.

Halladay and the coaching staff have said he's healthy. But in an interview with SportsRadio 94-WIP, general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. expressed some concern for Halladay, who missed 7 weeks last summer with a lat injury.

Amaro was asked to put his concern to a number, on the scale of 1 to 10.

"Probably a 5 1/2 or a 6," Amaro said.

Veteran righthanders Aaron Cook and Rodrigo Lopez would figure to be the first pitchers called upon if an injury arises in the starting rotation. The two combined for five scoreless innings in Thursday's 2-1 win over the Pirates.

Papelbon update

Jonathan Papelbon's spring-training hiccups appear to be a thing of the past.

Papelbon pitched a perfect sixth inning in Thursday's win over the Pirates. He struck out Jose Tabata and Brad Hawpe to bookend the inning and got Andrew McCutchen to ground out.

Including his outing Tuesday in a minor league game, Papelbon has three straight scoreless appearances after allowing eight runs on seven hits in his first two games this spring. The 32-year-old closer, however, sounded a bit like Halladay after his latest outing.

"It's the best I've thrown, but I don't think it's the best I've felt," Papelbon said.

So how did it feel then?

"Like spring," Papelbon said. Meaning? "Tired," he said. But healthy, he added.

"It's just part of spring, getting into that baseball shape, that's the whole key," Papelbon said. "I think everyone goes through times in spring whether it's either dead arm or dead legs, dead back - something."

Inciarte impressive

If Darin Ruf isn't ready to be an everyday leftfielder in the next 2 weeks and with Delmon Young set to begin the season on the disabled list, the odds would appear to be in favor of Rule 5 outfielder Ender Inciarte's pursuit of a roster spot.

Inciarte, 22, has impressed this spring and continued to do so Thursday. Starting in center, Inciarte went 1-for-3 with a double and threw out a runner at home to end the second inning.

"Tremendous throw," manager Charlie Manuel said. "I didn't know if he was going to have a shot, to tell you the truth. But he made it up with his arm. He had a strong, hard throw - a big-league throw."

But Manuel said it might be difficult to keep a developing player on a major league roster all season. Inciarte never played above Class A with Arizona.

"You're asking a kid a whole lot to be a utility player at 21, 22 years old," Manuel said Thursday. "I know we'll discuss it, but when you stop and think about it, you're trying to make a utility guy out of a guy 21, 22 years old.

"By being realistic about it, that can set him back in his development. But also too, if we take him, if something happens and he does make our team, he'd be getting in the game for defense but how many at-bats he could get would come into play, too."

As a Rule 5 pick, Inciarte has to stay on the major league roster all season. In order to send him to the minor leagues, the Phillies would first have to offer him back to Arizona. The two teams could also work out a trade.


Kyle Kendrick threw five innings Thursday in an intrasquad minor league game at the Carpenter Complex, allowing two unearned runs on four hits while striking out three and walking one . . . Infielder Cesar Hernandez and pitcher Justin Friend were sent to minor league camp after Thursday's game. Friend appeared in just three games this spring, and none since last week's exhibition against the Dominican Republic's World Baseball Classic team. He split last season between Double A Reading and Triple A Lehigh Valley. Hernandez, 22, a second-base prospect, hit .313 (5-for-16) with a double in 11 games this spring. He'll likely begin the season at Triple A . . . Ryan Howard and Chase Utley will get the day off Friday when the Phillies take a 2-hour bus ride to Port Charlotte to take on the Tampa Bay Rays. Howard (1-for-3, sacrifice fly) and Utley (2-for-4, double) played all nine innings in the field Thursday . . . John Lannan will make his fourth start of the spring Friday against the Rays. Lannan allowed four runs on five hits in four innings Saturday against Tampa.

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