Phils' young stars relish opportunity
Philadelphia's core to be tested in postseason's bright lights
PHILADELPHIA -- The majority of the Phillies players are heading into uncharted territory known as October baseball.
National television audience on TBS. Standing-room-only crowd buzzing with every pitch. Extra pressure to succeed.
All those factors will be magnified, especially for their young stars like first baseman Ryan Howard, second baseman Chase Utley, shortstop Jimmy Rollins and pitcher Cole Hamels, who will start Game 1 of the National League Division Series against the Rockies on Wednesday.
"I don't really know what to expect, because I've never been through it before," said Howard, who hit 47 homers and drove in 136 runs this season. "The stage is bigger, but I'm going to treat it like just another game. I don't want to get caught up in it. I'm going to have fun, but there's no need for any extra pressure."
Rollins, a strong candidate for the NL Most Valuable Player Award, is eagerly awaiting the NLDS.
"I've been waiting eight seasons for this," said Rollins, who hit .296 with 38 doubles, 20 triples, 30 home runs, 94 RBIs, 212 hits and 41 stolen bases. "I'm ready for the playoffs. It's going to be fun. We were eliminated on the last day and the second-to-last day the past two seasons, so this is sweet. Let's go take care of business. First up is the series against the Rockies."
Four Phillies players have won World Series rings -- Tadahito Iguchi and Aaron Rowand with the White Sox in 2005, Rod Barajas with the Diamondbacks in 2001, and Antonio Alfonseca with the Marlins in 1997. Reliever Jose Mesa appeared in the World Series with the Indians in 1995 and 1997.
"I don't think the guys in this clubhouse will be bothered by anything," Rowand said. "This is a focused group, and we've been playing big games all season. It seemed like every game we played in September was big -- almost like a playoff atmosphere. If any player comes to me, I'll talk to them. I'm sure they'll be fine."
Hamels didn't seem the least bit nervous during his last outing -- a 116-pitch gem with 13 strikeouts in a 6-0 win over the Nationals last Friday. It was the lefty's third start since missing more than a month with an elbow injury.
He likely won't be fazed by the drama of the postseason.
"I think it's going to be very exciting," Hamels said. "Just trying to go out there and play the other day on Friday, I think that was more of an important start for me, anyway. I think getting there is a lot bigger baggage than right now at the moment because everybody is stressing-out, not getting there in 14 years. Nobody thought about what you would do on Day 1 of the postseason, just because they wanted to get there.
"So I think that was a little more purposeful. But just being able to go out there and have the confidence in the players that they want me to go out and start Game 1 because they see that I can make the difference, it's big. It gives me that extra confidence to go out and succeed. But I obviously wouldn't be here if it wasn't for the offense that we have."
Rollins made sure to point out that the offense shouldn't change just because the games carry more meaning.
"Get it done," Rollins said. "We have to keep getting it done. It's another game. That's the way we have to approach it."
Andy Jasner is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.