CLEARWATER, Fla. -- The fact that Cole Hamels will be the Phillies' starter on Opening Night in Atlanta says a lot about how well he pitched in 2012. It also is a reminder that two-time Cy Young Award winner Roy Halladay, who turns 36 in May, is coming off a down season.
The spotlight will be on Halladay when he faces the Orioles on Sunday at Bright House Field because he gave up seven runs in 2 2/3 innings in his last Grapefruit League start. But Hamels said on Saturday that he doesn't believe the Phillies' entire season hinges on Halladay.
"If Doc's not Doc, OK, now he just went from immortal to still sort of immortal," Hamels said with a laugh. "He's one of the best pitchers in baseball and he knows how to fight to the very last breath. He's not going to go out there and give up. He still has the best pitches. He has the best sort of game knowledge. He prepares himself to win, and he's going to win."
Still, that situation raises the issue that Hamels is just starting a six-year, $144 million contract at a time when much of the nucleus that helped the Phillies win five straight National League East titles, two pennants and a World Series is getting older.
"You don't want to see it, but you understand the game of baseball is a very small window," Hamels said. "And you have to do very well for that period of time that you have. So I think, even though you don't want to hear it, it's more or less just the knowledge that you have to give it everything you can while you can because it's going to be taken away really fast and you don't want to regret anything.
"I think that's kind of the idea behind what we have to do. We have to perfect everything we can. We have to play as hard as we possibly can. Because it's going to disappear fast, and I don't want it to disappear. That's why I still signed here, because I firmly believe we have a great team and we can win the World Series, and the organization wants to see that and the fans want to see that, and I think that's the ingredients that you need to succeed, and we have to push the limits."
Young intends to be better than ever at third
TAMPA, Fla. -- One of the big questions the Phillies had coming into Spring Training was how well Michael Young would be able to make the transition back to third base after not playing there regularly since 2010.
Well, Young has only made one error in Grapefruit League play, and that came at the very beginning of the schedule. He handled five chances flawlessly in a 7-0 win over the Yankees at George M. Steinbrenner Field on Saturday. And he's bullish about what he's capable of this season.
Can Young, at age 36, play third better than he ever has before?
"I expect to," he said. "Preparation is the key to anything and I feel like I'm prepared and working hard, and I want to keep doing that during the season. I feel comfortable now, but there is always work to be done. I know I haven't been at third in a while, but I do know what it takes to play third base at a high level and I have definite goals in my head about the type of third base I intend to play. I'm going to keep working hard until I get there."
He's keeping those goals to himself, and they're not necessarily numerical.
"It's the way I feel over there. The third base I know I can play. I don't feel like I've played it to this point in my career. I've worked at it and worked at it, but at the same time you need the reps. A lot of things are starting to click over there that I was kind of searching for a little bit earlier. This is a classic example of learning by doing," he said.
Brown in the lead to grab outfield spot
TAMPA, Fla. -- Outfielder Domonic Brown, once considered the Phillies' top prospect, was something of a question mark coming into Spring Training. And manager Charlie Manuel still isn't ready to announce who his corner outfielders will be.
But after Brown hit a big three-run homer in the fourth to start the Phillies on their way to a 7-0 win over the Yankees at George M. Steinbrenner Field on Saturday -- and also made a diving defensive gem -- Manuel admitted he definitely has the inside track to a starting spot in either left or right.
"Definitely is -- I'd say right now he's got the lead. Kind of like Smarty Jones or Big Brown out front," Manuel said. "He had a big game, especially the ball he went for in the gap and dove. That's the best catch I've seen him make. He's definitely gotten better in the outfield, and his hitting is real good. He's got good balance at the plate. He's lowered his hands some. And he's catching the ball at an angle out front. That's when his power plays for him."
Said Brown, who is hitting .365 with four homers in Grapefruit League play:
"It feels good on my end. I'm just feeling confident, going out there and playing hard. I just try to square it up. I'm not thinking about being a power hitter or nothing like that. I'm just going out and playing baseball. If I catch it at the correct angle, I know I can hit a couple home runs.
"I just haven't been worried about anything. I've just been going out there, playing hard and making sure I'm doing the little things. I'm going out, doing my early work and working my butt off. If you do that, the game should be easy for you."
Manuel glad Rollins is returning to camp
TAMPA, Fla. -- Charlie Manuel was rooting for the United States in the World Baseball Classic. The Phillies' manager hoped Team USA would advance to the finals at AT&T Park in San Francisco and win it all on March 19.
At the same time, the fact that the U.S, was eliminated Friday night means that the Phillies will be getting shortstop Jimmy Rollins back.
"I mean, yeah, I wanted to see them do good. But also I'm looking forward to Jimmy coming back. Because that way -- I know he's been playing because I watched him -- getting him back the last couple weeks, that should help him and us," Manuel explained before Saturday's 7-0 win over the Yankees at George M. Steinbrenner Field.
In six Classic games Rollins went 9-for-28 (.321) with a double and four runs scored. Manuel said he wasn't sure when the shortstop would be back in camp or when he'd be back in the Phillies' lineup.
Hamels happy with work in intrasquad game
CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Cole Hamels didn't pitch against the Yankees in Tampa on Saturday. He didn't even pitch in a Minor League game at the Carpenter Complex.
Instead, the Phillies' newly named Opening Night starter got his work in during a morning intrasquad game. In five innings he allowed six hits, including a homer to Cody Overbeck, and four earned runs. He walked two and struck out six while throwing 84 pitches, 57 strikes.
"I was pretty pleased in the end. Just to be able to build up to a somewhat significant pitch count, that was nice," Hamels said. "I was able to get all five pitches working, which I was happy with. I got a lot more work in this week to get my timing better, so I was able to fulfill my goal today. It's nice to build off that and start to get ready for when the season is going to happen.
This was the first time Hamels has spoken publicly since the Phillies announced that he would start Opening Day on April 1 in Atlanta.
"It really is [an honor[. A lot of great pitchers have had that honor, and to be one of them, it's something I will cherish," Hamels said. "To be able to get your team off to the right start sets the tone for the entire season. It's something I'll be able to remember for a really long time. At the same time, I'm looking forward to the season. It's going to be a great season.
"You don't really want to get all hyped about it, because there's so much work to be done in Spring Training. I think the way they've done it with getting our work in without the distraction is a good thing. I can focus on what I need to do, but when they made the announcement, yeah, it's nice to be honored by the organization and lead [the team] into battle. You want to do your best and set the tone for the season."
• Raul Valdes, competing for a spot in the bullpen as a long reliever and situational lefty, pitched three scoreless innings for the second consecutive outing on Saturday.
• Non-roster outfielder Jermaine Mitchell started against the Yankees at designated hitter and hit a triple. "I've liked his bat from Day 1," Manuel said.
Paul Hagen is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.