Phantastic! Phils report, raring for rare chance

Phantastic! Phils report, raring for rare chance

Phantastic! Phils report, raring for rare chance
CLEARWATER, Fla. -- They arrived separately and left separately, but they are here.

Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee.

Roy Oswalt and Cole Hamels.

The Phantastic Phour -- or whatever their nickname is this week -- arrived at Bright House Field on Sunday morning as pitchers and catchers officially reported to Spring Training to kick off arguably the most highly anticipated season in franchise history. The four aces and Joe Blanton -- the team's fifth starter -- shared their thoughts at a news conference Monday, but clearly there is excitement in Clearwater, where the high temperatures this week are expected to be in the mid 70s.

"A big part of it for me is not having the best pitching staff in history, but having the chance to get to the postseason and the best chance to get to the World Series," Halladay said on Monday.

"We have very high expectations," Phillies closer Brad Lidge said. "A lot of people thought we were going to be a World Series contending team, possibly the team to beat, before we got Cliff. Once we got Cliff, it just seemed like the mentality is we need to win this thing. This is a rare opportunity to have this kind of rotation in this game.

"I've never seen anything like the rotation we have out there. It's going to be exciting. A lot of guys in here, we all feel like we need to win the World Series this year. Anything short of that is ... it could still be considered a good season if we get all the way to the World Series, if we get deep it still could be considered good, but it's not going to be what we want. We want to win the whole thing."

That certainly is the expectation for the Phillies:

World Series or bust.

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It might be different had the Phillies not won four consecutive National League East championships, the 2008 World Series and the 2009 NL pennant, but they have.

Do the players feel the hype?

"I gave blood [during a physical], so I'm a little down now," setup man Ryan Madson joked. "But hopefully once that waffle hits my stomach I'll feel better. No, it's exciting. Everybody has smiles."

Phillies pitching coach Rich Dubee is in the smiles group. He always has said the team's No. 1 starter is the pitcher staring that day.

Of course, this time it actually is true.

"We're pretty much running out four No. 1 starters," he said. "You can't but love what we've got."

It would seem to make his job easier.

"I was going to bring a recliner to Spring Training, but I thought I would stand on my feet for a while," Dubee said. "There's still work to be done. These guys are good professionals. They know themselves, but at times they get out of whack. They'll need a slight adjustment. I think there's still growth there. Cole is still growing. I think what we saw from Cole Hamels last year with the addition of the cutter and curveball, Roy Halladay picking up the changeup, Roy Oswalt picking up the changeup ... these guys are still evolving as pitchers.

"There's still work to be done. We're not going to change anything. I'm not that dumb. We'll continue to let them be who they are, but there's always adjustments to be made."

Everybody knows Halladay will be the Opening Day starter, but Dubee said he hasn't committed to the rest of the order of his rotation. Lee seems likely to fit into the No. 2 spot.

"We might put the names in a hat and pull them out," Dubee said.

There is one, possibly no jobs available in the bullpen if everybody is healthy to open the season. One job if the Phillies carry 12 pitchers. No jobs if they carry 11 pitchers. That is because Kyle Kendrick is a lock for a bullpen job.

"He could be a swing guy, a bullpen piece, a long guy," Dubee said. "He could be a spot starter. Unfortunately, injuries seem to crop up at times, so it's nice to have that extra guy. So he'll get lengthened out in the spring just like a starter."

Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. recently floated the idea the team could carry just 11 pitchers.

"It's a possibility," he said. "With the innings eaters like we have, including Joe, we've got some length in our starting rotation. We think we can get deep in games."

The Phillies should get plenty of innings -- and wins -- from the rotation, which is why teammates beamed Sunday.

"Fans should be pumped up. I know I am," Lidge said. "I couldn't wait for Spring Training to start. It's going to be an exciting year."

Exciting, yes. Guaranteed success, no.

"We have to curb the excitement a little bit, too," Dubee said. "We still have to play baseball. I mean, we are absolutely thrilled with our starting rotation. You can't downplay that. I don't think anyone who has ever seen baseball would downplay it. But the fact of the matter is we have to play 162 games and play up to our potential."

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