Roy Halladay has made 10 consecutive Opening Day starts, but Cole Hamels was the clear ace in 2012. Who will Charlie Manuel call on first on April 1 in Atlanta?
Back on March 31, 2003, the Phillies trotted out Kevin Millwood for his first Opening Day start in red pinstripes. That same day, the Blue Jays sent out Roy Halladay, and the right-handed ace of aces has taken the ball on every Opening Day since, including the last three seasons with the Phillies.
But last year, Cole Hamels made clear the case he's the Phillies new ace. Forget that Halladay had his worst year since at least 2004 — Hamels was the one of the only consistent commodities on an up-and-down squad last season and put together his third straight year of at least 30 starts, 200 innings pitched, an ERA 3.06 or less and a WHIP of 1.17 or better.
Since 2010, the left-hander has recorded a 2.97 ERA with 621 strikeouts and a 1.10 WHIP over 640 innings.
Halladay's numbers have been nearly identical: 2.91 ERA, 571 K's, 1.09 WHIP and 640.2 innings — though he did it over six fewer games. But they've been going in the wrong direction.
And then there's the $144 million the Phils threw Hamels' way, christening him as the ace of the future, which may have arrived earlier than expected with Halladay's injury-shortened season.
No Phillie has made more than three consecutive Opening Day starts since Steve Carlton, who made 10 straight from 1977-86. Oddly enough, the Phils fell in eight of those 10 contests. With Halladay, they've won three in a row.
Yet, even if Halladay emerges from spring training completely healthy, Hamels has proven he's the one who's now leading the way and should, for the first time in his career, get the ball on Opening Day.