CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Pitching coach Rich Dubee is not ready to announce the Phillies' opening-day starter in Atlanta, but read between the lines of what he's saying and you can conclude that the decision is down to Cole Hamels and Cliff Lee.
That means someone other than Roy Halladay would be the opening-day starter for the Phillies for the first time since the team acquired the two-time Cy Young Award winner from Toronto before the 2010 season.
"I think it's how we line up best," Dubee said. "Realistically, we could pitch anybody the first day as far as Doc, Cole and Cliff. On most staffs, they are No. 1 starters, so they all could pitch opening day. But part of what we're thinking is trying to split those two lefties. Last year we started with two lefties (after Halladay) and I'd just like to split them up."
That scenario would probably place Halladay on the mound for the second game of the season-opening series against the Braves. It would mark the first time since 2002 that he did not make an opening-day start. His first opening-day assignment was in 2003 with Toronto against Roger Clemens and the New York Yankees.
The Phillies are 3-0 in Halladay's opening-day starts and he won two of those games, including last year when he pitched eight shutout innings in a 1-0 win at Pittsburgh.
Dubee does not believe Halladay will have any objection to the end of his 10-year streak as an opening-day starter.
"I think those three guys we're talking about, they just want to pitch," Dubee said. "It's an honor to pitch opening day, but I think they've all done it in the pas ... so it's not like it would be their first time."
Actually, if Hamels ends up being the opening-day starter, it would be his first time. Based on overall performance from last season, Hamels is the most deserving candidate to make the opening-day start against the Braves, but you could make a case for Lee, too.
Hamels has a career record of 12-7 with a 3.58 ERA against Atlanta and was 1-1 with a 2.77 ERA last season. Lee is 4-4 with a 3.08 ERA against the Braves and was 1-1 with a 0.60 ERA last season.
Halladay, on the other hand, had a miserable time against the Braves last season, going 0-2 with an 11.21 ERA in four starts.
If the Phillies wanted to give Halladay some sort of distinction, they could allow him to start the home opener against the Kansas City Royals, a team he dominated when he was in the American League. That would mean Kyle Kendrick would pitch the second game of the season.
Dubee said he was not inclined to make that move at this point.
"We're probably going to run our first three guys out there in Atlanta," he said.