By PATRICK GORDON | Managing Editor
Cole Hamels will take the ball Monday night at Turner Field in Atlanta to make his first career Opening Day start, making him just the third homegrown Phillies pitcher to start the season opener since 1971. 

"It's something I'll certainly remember for a long time," Hamels said. "It's so important to get off to a good start and for me to have the opportunity is something special."

Hamels was stellar this spring, notching 12 strikeouts over 16 innings in four Grapefruit League starts while posting a 0.90 ERA. He finished last year 17-6 with a 3.05 ERA and surpassed Roy Halladay as the Phillies' ace.

"The goal is the same thing I set out to do when I tried to get to the big leagues and that's to stay here and be the best," Hamels said. "To be a starting pitcher, your goal is to go out and win and that's why I enjoy it so much."

Hamels signed a six-year, $144 million extension last season and has matured into one of baseball's best starting pitchers. He is a popular pick to win the National League Cy Young in 2013 and with some run support he can make a legitimate run at the 20-win plateau.

"It's his time to step up and be the guy, and he's up to the challenge," said Cliff Lee. "He certainly has the skill to do that, and I think he'll embrace it. He's earned the right to make the Opening Day start."

Most prognosticators have the Phillies finishing third in the NL East, behind the Atlanta Braves and the Washington Nationals, so any playoff run likely means putting together a winning record against both clubs.

"It's important to get off to a solid start, especially within the division," Hamels said. "This start will be something I'll be able to remember for a really long time and I'll certainly cherish it." 

- Patrick Gordon in managing editor of the Philadelphia Baseball Review. Follow him on Twitter @Philabaseball or email him at

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