The Phillies have plenty of question marks heading into 2013, but if this team is going to be successful and return to the playoffs, one gets the feeling it will need to jump out to a fast start against inferior opponents.
The Phils' first 32 games are quite favorable, as they include 13 against the Marlins and Mets. Miami and New York, as of Thursday, look like two of the four worst teams in the NL.
The pre-All-Star break portion of the Phillies' schedule contains 30 series -- 16 against teams that finished below .500 last year and 14 against teams that had winning records. The Phils, who play their NL East rivals 19 times each this season after facing them 18 times in previous years, have 13 meetings with the Marlins prior to the Midsummer Classic. They'll play the Braves 13 times in the second half.
They'll also get three NL Central foes -- the Reds, Brewers and Pirates -- out of the way completely by July 4.
The interleague schedule isn't all too threatening, either. Of the Phils' 17 first-half interleague games, 14 are against AL teams that had losing records last season. They play the Indians and Red Sox four times each, the Twins and White Sox three times apiece, and will play their home-opening series against the Royals.
That series against Kansas City will likely feature new ace James Shields, who should be slated for the final game.
Regardless of who they play early, of course, the Phillies need to take care of their own business. Last April they played 17 of 23 games against teams that would eventually finish with losing records (Pirates, Marlins, Mets, Padres, Cubs), but went just 8-9 in those games and 11-12 in the month.
The difference is that Chase Utley and Ryan Howard are expected to be ready for the 2013 season's first month. Last April Freddy Galvis hit .191 and the first base contingent drove in 13 runs in 23 games.