Astros-Phillies Preview

For Roy Halladay, opening day means it’s just one day closer to

the postseason.

Halladay and the rest of the Philadelphia Phillies are ready to

get the most anticipated season in franchise history started.

Expectations are high this year. So high, in fact, that anything

less than a World Series title won’t be considered a success.

But the Phillies have to play 162 games first, starting with

Friday’s opener against the Houston Astros.

”I think we’re all anxious, more so to get back to the

postseason,” Halladay said. ”That being the goal and having

another quality team to put on the field, I think we’re all

anxious. Opening day is just the start of it.”

The four-time NL East champions became instant favorites to win

their second World Series in four years after signing Cliff Lee to

a $120 million, five-year deal. The addition of Lee to go along

with Halladay, Roy Oswalt and Cole Hamels gives the Phillies a

starting rotation that’s the envy of baseball.

Injuries to five-time All-Star Chase Utley and closer Brad Lidge

have brought Philadelphia back closer to the pack. Still, the

Phillies won’t be satisfied unless they are riding down Broad

Street for a championship parade in October.

”Crazy things happen in baseball. It obviously takes a lot, and

just because you have certain names on paper doesn’t guarantee

anything,” Halladay said. ”We’re very well aware of that. If we

all go out and do our jobs the way we’re supposed to and we’re able

to stay healthy, then we like our chances. But we all know what

we’re up against. I don’t think teams are going to go running from

us just because of the guys that we have on our roster.”

Halladay is the reigning NL Cy Young Award winner. He won 21

games in his first season with the Phillies, including a perfect

game. He then tossed a no-hitter in his first career postseason

start.

How does he top that?

”Personal accomplishments are nice, but the reason I’m playing

now is to try to win a championship,” he said. ”That’s still

there, still in the forefront, so for me that’s the biggest driving

factor. Really, it’s going to be a lot of the same from last

year.”

Halladay will be making his second opening-day start for the

Phillies, and his first at Citizens Bank Park. The starter for the

Astros, Brett Myers, is quite familiar with the hype and hoopla

surrounding opening day. Myers started three straight openers for

Philadelphia from 2007-09.

A first-round pick by the Phillies in 1999, Myers had 73 wins

and 21 saves in eight seasons in Philadelphia. He was 2-1 during

the 2008 postseason, helping the Phillies win the World Series.

”If I read too much into it, it’s like one of those things

where you get too amped up for something and then you have to

control your emotions and be able to pitch,” said Myers, who was

14-8 with a 3.14 ERA in his first season with Houston. ”It is

Opening day and it’s kind of like a playoff game, but you’re

starting the season. So you have to control your emotions and try

to make pitches and don’t get too hyped up.”

Myers is one of five former Phillies, including three starting

pitchers, on the Astros. Houston general manager Ed Wade previously

held the same position in Philadelphia.

The Astros finished just 76-86 last season, but they were 59-52

after an awful 17-34 start.

”We finished strong. We didn’t give up on the season, we played

hard every day,” said center fielder Michael Bourn, another one of

the former Phillies. ”That helped us out a lot, and hopefully

it’ll carry over to this year. I know it’s a different year and

every (team) makes different moves.

”You try to say the year before can help you, but you’re in a

different year.”

The Phillies will feature a different lineup from the one they

used the last few years. Missing from the middle of the order will

be their Nos. 3 and 5 hitters. Utley is out indefinitely with a

knee injury. Jayson Werth departed for Washington.

Jimmy Rollins, the 2007 NL MVP, moves down from the leadoff spot

to hit third instead of Utley. Raul Ibanez, who batted fifth at

times during the 2009 season, will start the season in that spot

behind Ryan Howard.

”I’m never satisfied from an offensive standpoint. I think we

can always do better,” manager Charlie Manuel said. ”If we stick

to how we usually play, we’ll be fine because the talent is there.

We come to the ballpark every day to win. People say we were down

on runs last year, but we won 97 games, which is the most we’ve won

in a long time.

”The first time in baseball that the Phillies had the most

wins. We hit good enough, but we can do better. We can pitch better

and play better and win more games. Going to the World Series is

our ultimate goal, and if we don’t get there, we’ll be very

disappointed in ourselves.”