Doc knows time is of the essence for Phils

Doc knows time is of the essence for Phils

Roy Halladay sat in front of his locker, still in full uniform, nearly 30 minutes after Ryan Howard ruptured his left Achilles and made the final out of Game 5 of the 2011 National League Division Series.

Halladay's season had ended and he could not believe it.

"The hard part is you think about all the work you put in over the year," he said following that gut-wrenching 1-0 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals at Citizens Bank Park. "You think about the game today and how big it was going to be, and then all of a sudden, that just kind of dissipates. It's hard to have it end like this. You always want to finish happy. It's hard to finish the season losing."

The Phillies finished the 2010 and '11 regular seasons with the best record in baseball but fell short in the postseason. Halladay, who came to Philadelphia to win a World Series, is hoping this season has a much different ending.

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He hopes he finally gets what he wants.

He also knows time is running out. Halladay, who will pitch for the Phillies on Opening Day on Thursday against the Pirates at PNC Park, turns 35 on May 14. He knows he only has so many innings left in his magic right arm. He feels the pull to spend more time with his family.

"I want to play as long as I can," he said. "There's a lot of things that go into it, but I know I have a certain amount of time left here. I'm looking forward to that time and not really at this point making any plans in the future based on that."

There had been a minor stir earlier in Spring Training following a report that Halladay's velocity has been down. He said the more he has pitched and the older he gets, the more time he needs to get ready for the season.

He said he is fine.

The Phillies hope so because they desperately need their Big Three -- Halladay, Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels -- to continue their NL dominance, with Ryan Howard and Chase Utley sidelined indefinitely because of injuries and other uncertainties about the club's ability to score runs.

In the past, the Phillies' Opening Day lineup was easy to predict. This year? Juan Pierre could be hitting leadoff. Jimmy Rollins could be hitting third. Shane Victorino could be hitting fifth.

There are a lot of questions in the lineup, so Halladay needs to keep pitching like an ace. If he does, there is a very good chance the Phillies are back in the postseason, with another crack to win the World Series.

Philadelphia Phillies
Projected Opening Day lineup
1 LF Juan Pierre
2 3B Placido Polanco
3 SS Jimmy Rollins
4 RF Hunter Pence
5 CF Shane Victorino
6 1B John Mayberry
7 C Carlos Ruiz
8 2B Freddy Galvis
9 P Roy Halladay
Projected rotation
1 RHP Roy Halladay
2 LHP Cliff Lee
3 LHP Cole Hamels
4 RHP Vance Worley
5 RHP Joe Blanton
Full 25-man roster | Depth chart

"That's the ultimate goal," Halladay said. "The drive is always going to be there. As long as I play, I want to win as much as I can. I still feel like this is the best place to do it."

Some look at this season as the Phillies' last best shot to win a World Series because Cole Hamels and Shane Victorino could become free agents when it concludes. The window of opportunity to win with this core of talent is closing. The Phillies have acknowledged this. And Halladay himself has thought about the possibility he might never win the ultimate prize.

"I realize that I'm not getting younger," he said. "I'm probably going to play less going forward than I've played already, so I understand that. The greatest thing that's ever happened to me was coming here. ... If I go the rest of my career and never get another shot, I'll have no regrets. That being said, that doesn't mean it means less to me to try to [win]. I wanted that chance, and I enjoyed that chance, and I'm looking forward to that chance again."

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