Hot Rod Halladay

The countdown is over. Pitchers and catchers officially reported to Clearwater, Fla. Saturday for the start of spring training. The Phillies will hold their first workout Sunday.

It couldn’t have come at a better time, either, following losses by the Sixers — they blew a 14-point first-half lead to Dallas Friday night — and the skidding Flyers, who lost 5-3 to Pittsburgh Saturday afternoon. This weekend is all about the reigning NL East champions.

Newly-minted closer Jonathan Papelbon had media availability. He talked about putting his last season in Boston, one filled with controversy and a late-season collapse, behind him. He credited Mariano Rivera for teaching him about “short-term memory” when he was a rookie.

Papelbon also provided this gem about playing in Philadelphia and the expectations associated with the hyped-up Phils.

“I like pressure,” Papelbon told reporters. “That’s what makes me tick, man. I’m excited.”

Perhaps the best moment of the day came when Roy Halladay showed up in a fixed-up hot rod racer. Apparently, the staff ace likes to restore old muscle cars. Halladay actually smiled, too.

Here is Halladay and his wheel, courtesy of Inky scribe Matt Gelb’s Twitter.

More on spring training to come in the next few days. Our Phils beat guy Ed Condran heads down to Florida for the team’s first exhibition game on Feb. 29.

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