Roy Halladay has an 8.65 ERA in seven starts this season. (USA Today Images)
Roy Halladay has enjoyed smooth sailing since having shoulder surgery in May. He has reached the 75-pitch mark in bullpen sessions and seen the bite come back to his curveball. Now, it’s time to increase the intensity of his rehab as he looks to return to the Phillies’ rotation in the coming weeks.
Halladay will head to Clearwater, Fla., on Thursday to resume his workouts. He is scheduled to pitch a simulated game against minor-league hitters on Saturday. Halladay said it was possible he could pitch in an official minor-league game next week, but the decision on how to proceed won’t be made until he sees how he bounces back after Saturday’s simulated game and club officials will be involved in the decision.
“I'm feeling good,” Halladay said. “Everything, so far, has gone how we mapped it out. There are definitely days where you feel like the ball jumps better than others. I'm still very encouraged overall that things have gone well.”
General manager Ruben Amaro Jr. is on record as saying that he hopes Halladay can be back pitching in the Phillies’ rotation “by September.”
Halladay, 36, will be a free agent at the end of the season. The Phillies, according to sources, would like to re-sign him, but will need to evaluate his health during the month of September. You can bet other teams will be watching Halladay, as well. The right-hander, a two-time Cy Young winner, won’t command $20 million a year anymore, but there will be a market for him if he's healthy.
“I'm not worried about next year,” Halladay said. “I'm not coming back to try to get a contract for next year, a bigger contract, anything like that. I just want to come back and pitch. After that, hopefully make a decision on where I can win. I hope that's here.”
Even as the Phillies have stumbled badly after the all-star break, Halladay looks at this as a team that can win next year. He mentioned the play of Domonic Brown and Chase Utley. He said he likes Cody Asche’s swing and the possibility of Michael Young staying around. Halladay added that he believes Ryan Howard will come back and be healthy and productive.
There could be another variable in Halladay’s decision on whether to return to the Phillies.
He is very close to pitching coach Rich Dubee, who, like manager Charlie Manuel, is in the final year of his contract. Halladay acknowledged that Dubee’s future with the club could impact his decision.
“To me, it’s important,” he said. “I never was very fortunate in Toronto to have long-term pitching coaches. They were in and out pretty quick. I felt like the longer I had a guy, the more he knew me, the more he could help me. Rich has been unbelievable since I’ve been here. He’s helped me tremendously. That is definitely something to think about. If he’s here, you know what you’re going to get. If you go somewhere else, you don’t know how you’re going to mesh with those guys or how they’re going to help you or if they can see things you can’t see. But I know what I have here and am very grateful for what I have here. Those are baseball decisions that are beyond my control.”
Halladay’s shoulder injury prevented him from getting his arm up to an optimum release point as he struggled to an 8.65 ERA in seven starts before shutting down in May. He has watched video of his recent bullpen sessions and says his arm angle is back to where it was in 2011 when he went 19-6 with a 2.35 ERA and finished second in the NL Cy Young voting. He said the higher arm angle has helped him recover the downward break on his curveball.
Halladay equated his current status to where he would be in spring training. When he gets on the mound for a rehab start, be it next week or shortly after that, he will be looking to excel.
“I want to make sure when I start my rehab assignment I feel like I am able to compete at a high level,” he said. “I want to compete in those games like I would (in the majors) so I know where I stand when I get here. I’m not interested in coming back and pitching at the same level I was early this year. I want to come back and pitch at a high level.”
Asked if he was targeting a date for a return to the majors, Halladay said: “As soon as possible.”