The Philadelphia Phillies have officially announced who will take the mound for the team on Opening Day and it may not be who everyone thinks it is.
Starter Cole Hamels will rightfully get the nod over Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee. This will be the first time in his exceptional career that he will start on Opening Day. The biggest reason for the decision has to be the 29-year-old’s outstanding performance last season. He posted a 17-6 record with a 3.05 earned run average and 216 strikeouts in 215 1/3 innings. These numbers were much better than Halladay’s and towered over Lee.
The left-hander signed a six-year, $144 million contract extension this past season. The extension, along with his incredible numbers and the fact that he is just now entering his prime, means Hamels will now take over as the ace of the rotation. Halladay will be a solid No. 2 and if Lee can figure out a way to improve his numbers then he should be able to handle the third spot.
There is no question Hamels has met the hype of a first-round draft pick as he has become one of the best left-handed pitchers in the game over the past seven years. Baseball fans in general would select Hamels over several other lefties if they could only have one on their team. His incredible consistency and top notch performances in the postseason (with the exception of 2009) makes him one of the premier pitchers in the game.
What Hamels was able to accomplish in 2008, the year the Phillies won the World Series, was unbelievable. His regular season numbers were good, but many would agree the last two seasons were better. It is what he was able to do in the playoffs that will have fans remember his name for a long time in Philadelphia. The California native stifled opponents with his arsenal of pitches and refused to lose. He went 4-0 with a 1.80 ERA, 0.91 WHIP and 30 strikeouts in five starts. Hamels claimed NLCS as well as World Series MVP honors for his performance.
The Phillies absolutely made the right decision to go with Hamels on Opening Day. Now, the 17th overall pick in the 2002 Draft will have another opportunity to build the legacy of his name, starting this year on the first day of the regular season against the rival Atlanta Braves.