The Phillies are no longer the team to beat in the National League East.

Could that be a good thing for this club?

Chad Durbin thinks so.

“This team got punched in the mouth last year,” Durbin said one recent morning as spring training was nearing an end in Clearwater. “And sometimes a good punch in the mouth will do you some good.”

The punch in the mouth came in the form of 81-81 season last year. After five straight seasons atop the NL East, the Phillies slipped to third place and finished behind Washington and Atlanta.

Sure, there were reasons for the Phillies’ disappointing season.

Ryan Howard and Chase Utley missed significant time in the first half with injuries. The bullpen was brutal in the first half. The eighth inning –- the Phils’ blew 13 leads in that frame -- was a sinkhole all season. Roy Halladay spent time on the disabled list en route to his worst season in a decade. Defense was a major problem as the club dropped to 15th in the majors in fielding percentage after ranking No. 1 during the 102-win season of 2011.

As the Phillies get ready to open a new season Monday night in Atlanta, Halladay remains a major question mark and defense is a concern until proven otherwise.

But there are reasons to feel good about this team, starting with the front two (Cole Hamels and Cliff Lee), the back two (newcomer Mike Adams and Jonathan Papelbon), and the big three (Howard, Utley and Jimmy Rollins).

On top of all this is an intangible that could serve this team well.

It was humbled last year.

It was punched in the mouth.