Concern in Clearwater: Halladay battered by Tigers

Concern in Clearwater: Halladay battered by Tigers

March 12, 2013, 2:30 pm
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Phillies Spring TV Schedule

Mar. 14 Pirates at Phillies, 1 p.m., TCN
Mar. 17 Orioles at Phillies, 1 p.m., CSN
Mar. 19, Yankees at Phillies, 1 p.m., TCN
Mar. 22, Braves at Phillies, 1 p.m., TCN
Mar. 26 Rays at Phillies, 1 p.m., TCN
Mar. 28 Blue Jays at Phillies, 1 p.m., TCN
Mar. 29 Blue Jays at Phillies, 7 p.m., TCN

CLEARWATER, Fla. – There was a hopeful and cautiously optimistic tone in Phillies camp the first month of spring training.

That changed Tuesday.

With every pitch that Roy Halladay threw, the atmosphere turned anxious and uncomfortable.

In his fourth start of the spring, Halladay was bruised for six hits and seven runs in 2 2/3 innings by a Detroit Tigers team that didn’t even include Miguel Cabrera or Prince Fielder.

Halladay’s fastball topped out at a meager 87 mph, according to one scout who observed from behind the backstop. The 35-year-old righthander struggled mightily with his command as he appeared to be trying to avoid bats. He walked four, hit a batter and threw a wild pitch. Two of the hits he gave up were homers, including a siren-sounding first-pitch grand slam to Ramon Santiago with two outs in the third inning. Eleven of the 18 batters that Halladay faced reached base.

In this game, the hitters will ultimately tell a pitcher which way he’s headed. The Detroit hitters spoke loudly, and it couldn’t have been pleasant for Phillies officials to hear.

“Yeah, it concerns me,” said manager Charlie Manuel, who met with GM Ruben Amaro Jr. after the game.

It was unclear what that meeting was about, but Halladay, coming off an injury-plagued and disappointing season in 2012, has been one of the big topics in camp. His productivity is crucial to the team’s chances.

Manuel, who was downcast after the 10-6 loss, went on to say that Halladay was healthy and needed to keep working to be ready for the regular season.

Halladay is famous for his hard work. After the game, he said the hard work caught up with him.

“I was really lethargic,” he said. “Warming up it was as good as it has been all year. Once we got out there (in the game) it was completely different. I think it’s just that time of spring. You’re going all the time. We had an extra day so I threw two bullpens in between, and you’re trying to work on as much stuff as you can. So I really feel that kind of caught up with me today.”

Halladay was not happy with the results. He was not troubled by them, either.

“I’ve always been a lot harder on myself than any of you guys have ever been,” he said. “It’s hard to explain sometimes how you’re feeling, what you’re working on, what you’re going through, what you’re trying to do. When you know in your head what’s going on, it’s a lot different. So the results aren’t satisfying – that’s obvious – but I think with the work we’ve done there’s been a lot of progress made. Unfortunately, we got to a point where we’ve done so much throwing that I really kind of just felt lethargic.

“The good part is there’s no soreness. Nothing hurts. And I’ll trade that any day of the week, feeling lethargic over being sore like last spring training.”

Last spring, Halladay continually denied that he was hurting. He eventually landed on the disabled list with a muscle strain behind his right shoulder. When he came back in July, he admitted that he’d felt shoulder stiffness since spring training, and he said doctors had seen “changes” in his rotator cuff in an MRI exam. Halladay’s goal this winter was to build core strength to take pressure off his upper body.

The added strength hasn’t brought back the velocity – at least not yet. He topped out at 88 mph in his last start and was 84-87 mph in this start.

Halladay’s diminished fastball has led to his throwing more off-speed stuff. The trend actually started last season. Pitching coach Rich Dubee would like to see Halladay throw more fastballs, even if it is sub-par.

“Sometimes he runs away from his fastball,” Dubee said. “Whether it’s 88 or 92, he still has to pitch off his fastball and trust it.”

Halladay continued to brush off concerns about his velocity, blaming the drop on his heavy between-starts workload.

“I’m not worried about the velocity,” he said. “It’s going to be up from that. I’m very confident of that. That’s more of a result of what we did during the week, what we did in the weight room, what we did on the field.

“We’ll start getting into more of a routine now and monitor workload.”

Will that bring the pop back to Halladay’s pitches and help his command?

Time will tell.

But one thing seems evident: Halladay is not the same guy who won two Cy Young Awards in his prime.

“I don't know where he is going to get back to,” Dubee said. “I don't. Who does? I don't have a crystal ball. But I know that his work ethic is still there, his desire is still there, so I'll take my chances.”

Halladay is scheduled to make his next start Sunday against Baltimore in Clearwater.