The Phillies try to reverse a losing April trend when they hand the ball to Cole Hamels and Brett Myers to open the 2008 season. The secret to a hot start could be as simple as landing a repeated 1-2 punch.
So far, the Phillies lead all of baseball in spring training hoopla. Pat Burrell’s pecks are the hottest fashion statement in Clearwater. Kyle Kendrick thinks he’s been traded to the Yomiuri Giants. And just this morning, Shane Victorino pied Brett Myers live on national TV during a segment on the Today Show, recapping the Kendrick incident.
As a stubborn fan, sick of buzz-killing 4-11 starts, with hangovers that seem to linger for an eternity, the thought of a spring training unfolding more like a bachelor party might feel like you’ve had one too many boilermakers. Just as long as the No. 1 and 2 starters stick to Sprite, you might not have to worry.
The Phils figure to draw Shawn Hill, John Patterson and Jason Bergmann in their three-game opener against the Nationals, as much as I respect this underrated trio, the Phillies hold a significant edge by countering with their left-handed ace and bulldog strike-thrower. Hamels and Myers get Cincinnati's Aaron Harang and Bronson Arroyo head-to-head the next series. Then, the Phillies waste little time beating around the bush by drawing the Mets the following week, although it appears at first glance the Phils will miss Johan Santana, while the Mets will avoid both Hamels and Myers. The Mets, by the way, appear to have the advantage in scheduling, because if the rotations hold, Santana draws Myers their next meeting on April 18, and Pedro gets Kyle Kendrick Saturday afternoon on Fox. That means the Mets might avoid Hamels the opening month, barring an adjustment.
Which the Phillies should definitely make. Here's how. If they kick in a sixth starter – say Chad Durbin – to pitch in the first game of the Cubs series on April 11 - which appears to fall against Chicago's fifth starter, Hamels draws Carlos Zambrano Saturday, followed by Myers against Ted Lilly on Sunday. Here's the best part: It sets up Hamels and Santana, Friday night, at home, April 18, followed by Myers and Pedro Martinez Saturday afternoon on Fox. Either way, Hamels and Myers are slated to pitch the Cubs series before that. And if they go with this proposal, Hamels and Myers finish the month with head-to-head matchups against Ben Sheets and Jeff Suppan in Milwaukee, then at home against Jake Peavy, Chris Young and the Padres.
If you're itching to see if the top of our rotation stacks up with the best, you might not have to wait very long.