As new season dawns, a renewed excitement for Phillies baseball

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That special day is upon us, the day when spring unofficially begins and preparation for the season starts with a clean slate.

Pitchers and catchers reported to Clearwater on Wednesday and the first workout is this morning. Phillies baseball is back.

In recent years, this day has provided a sense of false hope, seeing familiar faces and familiar names and assuming that maybe there is one final chapter in this great era of Phillies baseball left. By midseason, that pipe dream is a far cry from reality.

Only this season, hope springs anew for the Phillies. There are countless new faces in camp. There is a new general manager leading the charge. There are prospects and many of them.

No, the Phillies are not going to shock the world anytime soon with a championship, but just as they did with the group that won five straight division titles, two pennants and a World Series, the pieces are in place throughout the system to build a contender. That, coupled with a chance to certainly improve from the team's 63-99 record from a season ago, have provided a renewed excitement as the Phillies make their return to the field.

Going from a 102-60 record in 2011 to 63-99 in 2015 has certainly been quite the freefall. What the Phillies have done is taken an out with the old and in with the new approach.

Why should you be excited?

The Phillies rotation, while filled with some patchwork players, will likely be headed by Aaron Nola. Nola was the Phillies first-round pick in 2014 and made the climb to the majors just over a year after being drafted. Once he got to the majors, he experienced instant success, going 6-2 with a 3.59 ERA and 68 strikeouts in 77 2/3 innings pitched.

The centerpiece of the Phillies lineup is Maikel Franco, who brought a renewed power to the roster. Franco was on a tear last season before suffering a wrist injury that took him out of action for over a month. He still finished 14 home runs, 50 RBI and a .280 average in 80 games.

In addition, players that were just trying to break through in the majors are now going to be fixtures of the team. Aaron Altherr, Cesar Hernandez and Odubel Herrera will be full-time starters while Jerad Eickhoff and Adam Morgan look to fill part of the rotation.

The Phillies also added a host of prospects and talent that is near major-league ready. Vincent Velazquez and Brett Oberholtzer come from Houston and fit right into the Phillies major-league roster.

These are just a handful of the changes set to come.

The Phillies will still have an excellent farm system that could produce new members of the team during the season.

With not a lot of hope coming from the 25-man roster in recent seasons, fans are well aware of the Phillies rebuilding efforts. They should have started their efforts two years earlier at least, but it's better late than never for the Phillies, who have certainly managed to restore some positive feelings surrounding the franchise as it moves toward the next era.

And for fans who are still holding on to a small piece of the past, there are two remaining players from the 2008 World Series team that are taking their farewell tours. Ryan Howard and Carlos Ruiz are in the final seasons of their contracts.

Howard and Ruiz aside, the rest of the team is essentially in audition mode, both during spring training and once the season starts as well. At this stage, the fans are more excited to see potential and signs of things to come rather than live in the past with no sense of direction.

So we're off and running on the eight-month grind from spring training to the regular season and beyond, not sure of where the Phillies will end up for sure. They may not compete for much of anything, but they need to start somewhere.

A fresh identity is a good place to begin.

Kevin Durso is editorial assistant for Philliedelphia. Follow him on Twitter @Kevin_Durso.

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