CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Everywhere Roy Halladay looked this spring, he saw himself.
He graced the cover of Sports Illustrated. His highlights and interviews regularly appeared on ESPN and MLB Network as analysts debated his impact on the Phillies and the National League. He participated in photo shoots for magazines, and interviews for TV stations, radio stations, newspapers, magazines and online news outlets.
The attention has turned Halladay's Opening Day start for the Phillies on Monday afternoon against the Nationals at Nationals Park into one of the most hyped debuts in club history. Not that he needed media exposure to get it. Halladay's start is highly anticipated because he arguably is the best pitcher in baseball, and he joined the Phils in December in a blockbuster trade with the Blue Jays.
But Halladay is over the hype. He is ready to get to work.
"I'm looking forward to it," he said last week. "I feel prepared. I think that it's something you look forward to for a long time. I'm extremely anxious. ... I feel good. Obviously, physically is most important at this point, and I feel great. I'm pretty excited about a couple of things that we've accomplished this spring. I feel like we've covered quite a bit. I feel good moving forward. The stuff was there. There are a few things that I've been working on for a few years that I felt like came together pretty well this spring."
Like what, Roy?
"They're secrets," he said with a smile.
It is no secret that Halladay is expected to deliver big for the Phillies, who are trying to win their second World Series in three seasons. They traded three top prospects for him and signed him to a three-year, $60 million contract extension. They also traded Cliff Lee, who pitched incredibly well for the Phils in the 2009 postseason, because they said they had to make up for the prospects they lost to get Halladay.
"You do your best not to pay attention to the external stuff," he said. "I'm excited about it. But I think it's something you look at later in the year or at the end of the season. I think the attention to what you're actually doing is more important, but that being said, it can be tough sometimes to put that stuff out of mind and out of sight."
Halladay seems to have done a fine job of this. He is constantly in motion, moving from workout to workout, never straying from his routine. He showed up at Bright House Field just a couple days after Philadelphia acquired him to begin his offseason workouts. He hasn't stopped working since, and won't stop working until the Phils play their final game of the year.
"It's part of who I am, and I think it's an important part," Halladay said during a news conference in February. "When I step away from the game, it's the one thing I hope my kids carry on -- doing things the right way."
Halladay, who turns 33 in May, leads the Major Leagues with 130 wins, 13 shutouts and 46 complete games in the past eight seasons. He ranks third with a 3.13 ERA.
He put up those numbers pitching most of his games in the American League East against the Yankees, Red Sox and Rays. He should find things a bit easier in the National League East.
Regular-season success will be great. Halladay could win 20 or more games with the Phillies.
But ultimately, he will be judged on his postseason success.
Cole Hamels helped the Phils win the 2008 World Series. Lee dominated the 2009 postseason.
Halladay must do the same.
"I think that's what baseball is," Halladay said of the inevitable comparisons between him and Lee. "I think everybody is always comparing different players. I think that's how they decide who is the better player. That's always been the case, whether it's guys on the team being compared to you or other teams. That's part of it. It's nothing that fortunately I have to pay attention to. My job is to obviously prepare and compete the best I can.
"I stay out of the papers and news. Not that those people don't know what they're talking about. It just doesn't have a lot to do with how I should approach the game. Yeah, obviously that's going to be there, but it's not going to affect the way I prepare or the way I pitch or anything else."
But the postseason is what drives Halladay. It is what brought him to Philadelphia.
He wants a ring.
"That's the ultimate," Halladay said. "It was never about changing teammates, changing environments, changing cities. It was about wanting to pitch in October. That's what I look forward to here the most. There are no guarantees, but based on what they've done in the past, and the guys who are in that clubhouse, I look forward to having that chance."
Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.