The Morning Rundown: Cole Hamels + Dollar Hot Dogs = Tonight

Nobody make eye contact.Good morning.

Here's the run-down:

1) PANIC AT THE DISCO: In case you didn't get to take a look at the NL East standings, the Mets, Phillies and Braves are a combined 1-4. I say this not to crown the Marlins and Nationals division champs, but to hopefully stem the flow of red-and-white clad bodies hurling themselves from the span of the Walt Whitman Bridge. It's early. The Braves bullpen allowed nine runs two days ago in a loss to the mighty, mighty Pirates. There was a plethora of things to be concerned about in the Phils' 11-6 loss to the Nats two days ago, first and foremost the performance of Tom Gordon. But give 'em a mulligan and see what happens over the next week. Once is a fluke. Twice is a trend. Three times is a problem. There'll be plenty of time to worry if this keeps up.

2) TONIGHT, TONIGHT: We'll see if Cole Hamels can get the Phils their first W of the season. The ace lefty takes the hill tonight against Tim Redding in the first regular season night game of the season. I believe it is dollar hot dog day at the Bank, which might as well be a national holiday. It'll be a little chilly again, with temperatures in the low 50's. Bundle up.

3) THE ROMERO CASE: I appeared on Daily News Live yesterday and was asked if Phillies manager Charlie Manuel should have left J.C. Romero in to pitch the ninth inning against the Nationals. Romero pitched a 1-2-3 eighth, striking out two and throwing 10 of his 12 pitches for strikes. I was subsequently ripped by at least one emailer for my response, which essentially was hindsight is 20/20. My point: of course if you ask now it's obvious Manuel should have left Romero in. I can see both sides of the argument. Consider this: Romero made 76 starts last season, and only six of them went longer than an inning. He's just not a two-inning guy. The problem the Phillies faced is that both of their two-plus inning pitchers - Chad Durbin and Ryan Madson - were up in the batting order after their first inning on the mound. And the Phillies needed offense, so it was hard to leave them in there for longer than one. So by the end of the eighth, the Phillies had just Gordon, Clay Condrey and Tim Lahey left. Gordon isn't going to pitch more than an inning, especially early in the season. So the case can be made that you leave Romero in there so you don't have a situation where Condrey or Lahey is pitching the 10th. But with Lidge on the disabled list and the Phils carrying just 11 pitchers, Manuel's hands looked tied either way.

Rudy, Rudy, Rudy!4) SEANEZ CAN YOU SEE: The pessimsit in you says there is a reason the Los Angeles Dodgers released Rudy Seanez despite the fact that he had an ERA in the 3's and made 70-plus appearances last season. The optimist in you says he can't be worse than what they have right now. With Cole Hamels on the mound, there's a good chance Seanez won't be needed tonight. But he is expected to be there, in uniform, in case. I'll say this: if Rudy Seanez gets on the mound tonight and the Phils aren't holding a mega lead, they're in trouble.

5) CONLIN: Mr. Bill writes about Hamels, Gordon, and all things baseball. . .

6) ETC: We'll get back at you tonight before the game. Check in for a report from the clubhouse as well as the starting line-up from both teams.