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03/28/08 10:00 AM ET

Reliable ace Halladay set for opener

Right-hander gets honor in sixth straight year, draws Yankees

Opening Day is becoming old hat for Roy Halladay. When the Blue Jays' ace takes the mound at Yankee Stadium for Toronto's first tilt of 2008, it'll mark the sixth consecutive season that he's toed the rubber in the club's first game.

That streak extends Halladay's record for having made the most Opening Day starts in franchise history. For Halladay, though, it's simply another outing. The fact that it falls on the first day of the season doesn't carry any added importance.

"For now, it's another chance to start a season fresh and go out and compete," Halladay said about the Opening Day nod. "Maybe later on in your career, or when you're done playing, you look back on it and it might be something special at that point."

Taking on the Yankees in his first start of the season is a different matter. Halladay and the rest of his teammates are hoping Toronto can contend with New York and Boston for the American League East title. Right out of the gates, the Blue Jays have a chance to put their club up against one of their closest rivals.

Taking it a step further, Halladay's second start of the season is scheduled to be in the club's first home series, which will pit Toronto -- void of a playoff berth since 1993 -- against Boston. Halladay leads a cast of Blue Jays players that are trying to unseat the reigning World Series champion Red Sox this season.

"You always enjoy the challenge of playing them," said Halladay, referring to facing New York and Boston. "Opening with them, you just get to do it a little sooner than other years. But it's always a challenge playing those guys and it's going to be fun. It's going to be fun to go in there and get the season started and we're playing two of the best teams in the division."

Halladay's inaugural outing of 2008 happens to be the final Opening Day in the storied history of Yankee Stadium. That's another aspect of his first start that Halladay said he'd probably appreciate more when he looks back on his career. For now, it's just another road game against the Yankees.

"That's one of the outside interests of the game," Halladay said. "As far as players, and the guys playing, I don't think it's going to affect things or change things. It'll be fun to tell my kids about when I'm old and gray, but for the time being it's not really a focus."

Halladay heads a rotation that also includes A.J. Burnett, Dustin McGowan, Shaun Marcum and Jesse Litsch -- a group that emerged as one of baseball's best a year ago. Over 31 starts last season, the 30-year-old Halladay finished with a 16-7 record and posted a 3.71 ERA with a Major League-leading seven complete games.

Despite missing three weeks in May with acute appendicitis, Halladay managed to compile 225 1/3 innings, which was the third-highest total in the AL last year. It marked the second season in a row in which he finished with 16 wins, which raised his career total to 11 victories -- the fourth-most wins in Blue Jays history.

During Spring Training, Halladay continued to work on his impressive pitch repertoire, which includes a sinker, curveball, changeup and his signature cut fastball. Not including one Minor League game appearance, Halladay finished 1-2 with a 4.00 ERA over five spring starts. After his final outing, the 2003 American League Cy Young Award winner said he felt good heading into the year.

"I'm pretty happy with where things are," he said. "There's going to be times in the year where you're not that way and you're always working on something. I'm going to continue to improve things that I can and go from there. I'm definitely comfortable with where things are right now."

Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.