CLEARWATER, Fla. - The Phillies made the obvious official Thursday evening when they announced Cole Hamels will be their Opening Day starter.
It had been lined up that way for weeks.
Hamels unquestionably is the most deserving starter among a group that includes former Cy Young Award winners Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee. Hamels went 17-6 with a 3.05 ERA last season, earning a trip to his third All-Star Game and finishing eighth in National League Cy Young Award voting.
Hamels last month downplayed the possibility of starting Opening Day, despite the fact he had never started one in his career. Hamels earned 2008 World Series and NL Championship Series honors, but because of an injury in 2009 and the arrival of Halladay in 2010, he never pitched the season opener, although he pitched the home opener last year.
"I've never really thought about it," Hamels said last month. "It's one game, one appearance and then you're back into the normal baseball atmosphere. I've never really looked at it as this big sort of ordeal. I've always valued the playoffs."
Hamels would rather start Game 1 of the World Series instead.
"When you have to lead off the playoff game and a series, I think that's pretty important," he said. "I think that's kind of where it's at. If you do get that honor, you just go out and stick to business and try to win a ballgame."
The Phillies open their season April 1 in Atlanta. Halladay is scheduled to pitch the second game of the year April 3, thus ending his streak of 10 consecutive Opening Day starts, which was the longest active streak in the big leagues. Lee will pitch the series finale against the Braves on April 4. That sets up right-hander Kyle Kendrick to pitch the home opener April 5 against the Royals at Citizens Bank Park. Left-hander John Lannan will make his Phillies debut April 6.
Hamels said there is a sense of urgency to win this season after missing the playoffs last year following five consecutive NL East titles.
"There's definitely a sense of urgency," he said. "If you don't have that in this game, you're not going to last long. The organization isn't going to be happy, the city isn't going to be happy. That's the reason why people obviously leave, and ultimately that's the reason I wanted to stay. I know what it takes, I know these guys want to do it. With the injuries we kind of lost the path that we were accustomed to, on top of having teams in the division playing very well. So we have to get that urgency back and get back to playing the baseball we're capable of playing."
He can get the Phillies off to a good start April 1.
Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.