Few players enter the 2013 Major League Baseball season with as many question marks as two-time Cy Young Award winner Roy Halladay.
Following a shaky spring Halladay takes the hill for the Philadelphia Phillies on Wednesday when they continue a three-game series against the Atlanta Braves at Turner Field.
Halladay, the Phils' Opening Day starter the past two seasons, pitched to a 6.06 ERA this spring amid concerns that a strained lat, lower back issues and more recently a stomach virus have sapped his velocity. In his final Grapefruit League start on Thursday Halladay was torched for eight runs in four innings and in one stretch threw 11 of 12 pitches out of the strike zone.
The poor spring comes on the heels of an injury-plagued 2012 season that saw Halladay record an 11-8 mark with a 4.49 ERA, his worst showing since posting a 10.64 ERA in 2000.
"What do I expect?" Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said. "I expect him to go out there and pitch, keep us in the game and give us a chance to win ... I know baseball sometimes comes and goes. Your last outing, if you come out, get people out and throw a pretty good game, that washes out that last outing. That's just kind of the way it goes sometimes."
Halladay, who was 0-2 with an 11.21 ERA in four starts versus the Braves last season, will need to be better than Cole Hamels was in the opener if the Phils plan on evening this series.
Atlanta got the better of its NL East foes on Monday, as Freddie Freeman went 3-for-4 with a two-run homer and three RBI in the Braves' 7-5 win.
Justin Upton and Dan Uggla both had solo homers and Gerald Laird drove in a run in the triumph.
"It was a great start, I'll tell you that," said Upton, who was acquired from Arizona in a trade this past offseason. "Being able to contribute to the first win in my first game here is a great feeling. Hopefully we can keep going out and play good baseball."
Luis Avilan (1-0) earned the win after allowing one hit over 1 2/3 innings of relief. Starter Tim Hudson allowed three runs on six hits over 4 1/3 frames. Craig Kimbrel picked up his first this year with a perfect ninth inning.
Chase Utley was a double shy of the cycle with a solo homer and three RBI and Ryan Howard knocked in a run for the Phillies, who missed the playoffs last season for the first time since 2006.
"I worked hard this offseason to get to this point," said Utley, who hasn't played in a Phillies' season opener since 2010 because of various injuries. "I thought tonight (the Braves) swung the bats pretty well. You have to tip your cap. We had some opportunities there to tie the game, we just didn't get the big hit. We will take tomorrow off and stay ready to rock."
Hamels (0-1) was shelled for five runs on seven hits, including three homers, over five innings to absorb the loss.
Getting the call for Atlanta on Wednesday will be lefty Paul Maholm, who will be starting his first full season with the Braves. Maholm came over in a deal from Pittsburgh and was 4-5 in 11 starts for the Braves, while pitching to a 3.54 ERA.
"You want to get off on the right foot. I know last year I got shelled in two straight starts to begin the year," Maholm said. "No matter if you throw a shutout or get bombed, you've got to take it like you've got 30-plus starts and you'll have good ones and bad ones. You've got the itch to get out there and see where you're at."
Atlanta went 12-6 against the Phillies in 2012.