Philly Sports Live

Phillies Still Stacked with 3 Aces

It seems like forever since Roy Halladay lingered in front of his locker after a gut-wrenching 1-0 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals in Game 5 of the 2011 National League Division Series. But Phillies pitchers and catchers officially report to camp Saturday at Bright House Field, which means a fresh start and a new season.

Their first official workout is Sunday.

Finally.

Last year, the Phils boasted a once-in-a-lifetime rotation of Halladay, Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels and Roy Oswalt: Aces and Chooch. Oswalt is not in camp this spring, but Halladay, Lee and Hamels are. And those three make the Phillies the favorites to win their sixth consecutive NL East division title.

Halladay has been working out at the Carpenter Complex since December, and he has had company. Jose Contreras, Dontrelle Willis, Kyle Kendrick and others have also been getting an early start on the 2012 season.

Pitching figures to be the Phils’ strength again this season. Following Halladay, Lee and Hamels in the rotation are Joe Blanton, who hopes to stay healthy in the final year of his contract, and Vance Worley, who finished third in NL Rookie of the Year Award voting.

Jonathan Papelbon (aka “Cinco Ocho”) is the new closer. He replaces Ryan Madson, who will be closing games for the Cincinnati Reds.

Preceding Papelbon in the bullpen are Contreras, Antonio Bastardo, Chad Qualls, Willis, Kendrick, Mike Stutes and David Herndon. There are a host of young arms in camp, such as Justin De Fratus, Michael Schwimer, Phillippe Aumont and Joe Savery. There are also veteran arms, such as Dave Bush, Scott Elarton, Pat Misch, Joel Pineiro and Brian Sanches.

But it comes back to the Big Three every time.

Halladay. Lee. Hamels.

If they stay healthy, they should help the Phillies win a lot of games and get back to the playoffs for the sixth consecutive season.