THREE MONTHS ago, before the official announcement, Roy Halladay endorsed Cole Hamels as the new leader of the Phillies' rotation.

Halladay had started 10 straight times on Opening Day, dating back to his days in Toronto, but in the early part of spring training the aging veteran acknowledged it was Hamels' time.

"It should have been his spot a long time ago," Halladay said in February about the then-undecided assignment. "I think it's something he's going to embrace . . . I talked to him about it when we're going out and doing drills, stuff like that, it's time for him now to kind of step up and take charge in those situations and establish himself as the head of the staff."

Halladay underwent right shoulder surgery yesterday. His return in 2013 is uncertain.

Hamels, meanwhile, has not exactly taken the reins of the rotation as many had expected. Hamels gave up five runs in five innings as the Indians beat up the Phillies yesterday, 10-4.

The Phillies are 1-8 in Hamels' nine starts this season.

"I hate losing," Hamels said. "So ultimately when you're falling behind, you're putting yourself in a losing situation. It's not the type of game I prepare for. It's the type of thing where I want to make a change real fast because that's not who I am and that's not what I want people to expect. I'll try to push this off as quickly as possible and get back out there to what I'm capable of doing."

Although individual leadership in a five-man rotation is probably as overrated as the significance of an Opening Day starter, it's never a bad thing to have reliability and regular excellence from any pitcher, let alone one you're paying $144 million over the next six seasons.

Hamels hasn't been unreliable in the last month. He entered yesterday afternoon with a 2.41 ERA in his last six starts. But he hasn't been excellent, either. And, sans Halladay, the Phillies could use a better version of Cole Hamels than the one they've watched over the first 6 weeks.

Hamels struggled with command early against Cleveland and was hit hard when he did locate. The result was an early exit for the ace and an ugly loss for his team.

The most simplistic, one-sentence summary of his latest start: Hamels couldn't throw strikes.

Hamels went to three-ball counts to five of the first nine and seven of the first 12 batters he faced. After nine starts, Hamels has gone to a three-ball count to 56 of the 241 batters he has faced (or in 23 percent of plate appearances).

In 2012, Hamels went to a three-ball count in 140 of the 867 plate appearances against him (16 percent); he also had 140 three-ball counts in 850 plate appearances in 2011 (16.5 percent).

"He was having a hard time getting the ball to go where he wanted it to go," manager Charlie Manuel said of Hamels, who threw 64 of his 106 pitches for strikes. "That's what I saw . . . He was having trouble locating his pitches."