The dream of what could be one of the greatest rotations in baseball history finally became a reality Monday as Phillies pitchers -- make that aces -- and catchers reported to Spring Training in Clearwater, Fla.
There are plenty of pitchers and catchers looking to make their mark on the Phillies pre-season but each of those guys was overshadowed by the etched-in-stone starting rotation of Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Roy Oswalt, Cole Hamels and Joe Blanton.
The Fearsome Four (Halladay, Lee, Oswalt and Hamels) wanted to include fifth starter Blanton when they addressed the media for the first time as a unit Monday afternoon.
“Obviously, this is a very talented group of guys and I'm just honored to be a part of it,” said Lee.
The Cy Young Award-winning lefty shocked the sports world when he turned down reportedly sweeter offers from the Yankees and Rangers to the return to the Phillies -- the team that traded him away last off-season.
Lee came back because he “enjoyed himself” and Philly during his first stint with the Phils in 2009.
His addition changed everything and made most expectations World Series or bust.
“If we continue to stay healthy, we'll take care of our own business and obviously see what happens in reaching the postseason,” said Hamels. “When you get to the postseason, it's anybody's game. But now that we have guys that all have postseason experience, it's a good positive feature that we all have.”
Halladay, the defending National League Cy Young Award winner, whose arrival last off-season was marked by Lee’s departure, seems ready for the challenge of being the ace of all aces. But, his own accomplishments mean nothing if his team doesn’t win, he said.
“A lot of us are to the point in our career where you feel like the biggest thing left for you to do is win a championship, whether you've already done it or you haven't.
That was my only goal going into last year was to try and win a World Series. So coming close and coming up short is definitely hard. It's disappointing...
...It's my ultimate goal again this year is to win a World Championship, not forgetting about the steps that it's going to take to get there.
That's why I still want to play this game. I want to be part of a World Championship team. That is the biggest thing for me, and, yeah, it would be tough if we got close again and didn't win it.”
One guy who is forgotten in the mix is Blanton but he sure doesn’t seemed bothered to be the fifth guest at a four-man party.
“Hopefully, the other lineup falls asleep and thinks they have to face these four guys and I'll just kind of slip right in,” Blanton joked. “But, no, it's great to be a part of it.”
Part of what?
“What are our nicknames, anyway?” quipped Hamels.
The Phab Phour, R2C2, the 4 Horsemen, the 4 Aces?
“All those add up to four it seems like, and there's five of us,” Lee said. “So I haven't heard one that sounded any good yet.”
OK how about R2C2 and C-3PJoe?
With Oswalt’s contract up, R2C2 and C-3PJoe could be a one-year experiment but that doesn’t mean these guys will necessarily be breaking up.
“I'd like to stay here,” said free-agent-to-be Oswalt. “I love Philly. Had a great time last year, and hopefully this year will be better. But just kind of see where I'm at during the season.”
Oswalt was added to the already formidable 1-2 punch of Halladay and Hamels before the trade deadline last season. By adding Lee, General Manager Ruben Amaro has made the Phillies to talk of the majors.
People might think these guys could be unstoppable but they are trying to keep everything in perspective, according to Lee.
“I think we haven't thrown a single pitch as a group yet. So it's kind of early to say we're one of the best rotations in the history of the game. Obviously, we're a very talented group, and there is potential for all of that. But it's just that, it's potential.”
So is this the best rotation or not?
“I think the best rotation I can remember is the Braves back with Glavine, Smoltz, Steve Avery and Maddux,” said Lee. “I don't even remember who the fifth guy was, but those four were pretty dang good.”
And so are these four -- and Joe.