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It's no secret: Hamels to start Opening Day

This doesn't qualify as news as much as housekeeping: as expected, Cole Hamels will be taking the ball on Opening Day at Citizens Bank Park against the Red Sox a week from Monday.

After Cole Hamels made his penultimate spring training start on Thursday in Dunedin - throwing five shutout innings at the Toronto Blue Jays - Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg was given the layup of layup questions.

Who will be your Opening Day starter, Ryno?

"It's a secret," he said.

Actually, it's not a secret at all. It's just so obvious that the Phillies figure they don't have to announce it, as most major league teams are prone to do in mid-to-late March.

For the second time in the last three years, Hamels will get the Opening Day assignment. Pitching coach Bob McClure confirmed it before Sunday's game in Clearwater against the Detroit Tigers.

"Hamels and (Aaron) Harang," McClure said when asked how the rotation will be aligned to start the season. "We're not really sure on 3 and 4, yet. What order they'll be in."

Both pitchers expected to fill those spots, Jerome Williams and David Buchanan, will have ample time to get situated. Both pitched this weekend: Williams gave up 6 runs (4 earned) in 4 innings against the Minnesota Twins in Fort Myers on Saturday, while Buchanan pitched in a minor league intrasquad game on Sunday afternoon in Clearwater.

The Phillies do not need a fifth starter until Sunday, April 12 - the last of three games at Citizens Bank Park against the Nationals. They could choose to give Hamels an extra day, and have him pitch on the 12th with Unknown Starting Pitcher No.5 taking the mound on April 11.

But it doesn't sound like that's in McClure's playbook.

"(Hamels) will pitch on his fifth day," McClure said. "Coming out of spring training, there's a couple of times we've given him six days. But he's ready to go on five days. Our No.1 guy will go on his fifth day."

If you're trying to win baseball games with an uncertan rotation, sending Hamels out every fifth day, of course, is a pretty good option.

So who will pitch in the fifth spot two weeks from today?

McClure said Kevin Slowey, who is scheduled to pitch "2 or 3 innings" in relief in Bradenton tomorrow, is a possibility. Sean O'Sullivan could be called up from Triple-A. Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez, reassigned to minor league camp on Sunday, is not an option. McClure also mentioned veteran reliever Jeanmar Gomez.

The second-year pitching coach didn't seem concerned with making sure a reliever is stretched out if that's the route the team goes.

"Gomez has only pitched 2 innings (down here), but he can go 5; he's throwing enough," McClure said. "I don't see a problem with guys with resilient arms. When I got called up and thrown in the pen, about 10 days later I came in the second inning and pitched into the ninth. So if your arm is in shape, it's not really the innings as it is… it's more pitch count per inning. If you can keep that down, the ups and downs don't bother you."