Ace looks to deal winning hand

Ace looks to deal Phillies winning hand

The Phillies' quest for their first playoff appearance since 1993 will begin with Jon Lieber.

Though the veteran downplays the achievement, the right-hander will be making his seventh career Opening Day start -- a day after turning 36. Lieber is 2-1 with a 4.25 ERA in those outings.

The Phillies are the third team for which Lieber has pitched the opening game. He started for the Pirates (1995, 1997), Cubs (2000-02) and the Phillies (2005).

He made his first start on April 26, 1995, at Three Rivers Stadium in Pittsburgh. Baseball had just returned from a strike that forced the cancellation of the previous year's World Series and a delayed start to the season.

Upset fans weren't exactly thrilled to see Lieber, who recalled intense booing.

"They littered the field with bats, and I hit the next guy, Moises Alou, right in the back," Lieber said. "It was interesting."

Thought it's just a coincidence, 1995 was the worst healthy season of Lieber's career, and included a two-month demotion to Triple-A. He has since recovered to put together a career worthy of Opening Day starts.

No. 7 will be the second time he's started the game in the same city, as the game was in Philadelphia last season. Others were Pittsburgh, San Francisco, Chicago, Cincinnati and Tokyo.

Lieber pitched well in that March 29, 2000, game in Tokyo against the Mets -- the first time Major League Baseball opened a season outside North America -- and evolved as a staff ace.

"That was exciting," said Lieber said of starting in Tokyo, though he wasn't crazy about the pitching mound. "I never experienced anything like it."

St. Louis counters with Cy Young Award winner Chris Carpenter, who's coming off the best season of his career and having a brilliant spring. Despite being home, the Phillies likely won't score many runs.

This, nor the magnitude of Opening Day, will faze Lieber.

"The whole thing about it is, it's the first game and that's it," he said. "That's the way I look at it. It's great to kick off the season, but after that, you move on to the next game."

  Phillies probable lineup
1.SSJimmy Rollins
2.3BAbraham Nunez
3.RFBobby Abreu
4.2BChase Utley
5.LFPat Burrell
6.1BRyan Howard
7.CFAaron Rowand
8.CMike Lieberthal
9.PJon Lieber

Pitching matchup
STL: RHP Chris Carpenter
• 21-5, 2.83 ERA in 2005
• 1-1, 10.61 ERA in 2005 vs. PHI
• 3-2, 5.56 ERA lifetime vs. PHI

PHI: RHP Jon Lieber
• 17-13, 4.20 ERA in 2005
• 1-1, 6.00 ERA in 2005 vs. STL
• 12-7, 4.67 ERA lifetime vs. STL

On the Internet
 Gameday Audio
Official game notes

On television
STL: WB-11

On radio

On deck
• Wednesday: vs. St. Louis, 7:05 p.m. ET
• Thursday: vs. St. Louis, 3:05 p.m. ET
• Friday: vs. Los Angeles, 7:05 p.m. ET

Ken Mandel is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.