Roy Halladay hasn't pitched for the big-league club since May 5. (AP)
LAKEWOOD, N.J. -- Roy Halladay knows that the velocity -- or lack thereof -- on his pitches is an issue. So he addressed it head-on after pitching six innings in a minor-league game Tuesday night.
“I think the velocity will increase, but if it didn’t I think I could pitch at the velocity I’m at right now,” he said. “I feel like things are coming along well. I think I can rely on my curveball and splitter, and my cutter is coming around. I feel like Jamie Moyer did it and he was throwing 82, so I definitely feel like I can do it.”
Just over three months removed from right shoulder surgery, Halladay made his second minor-league rehab start Tuesday night. He allowed seven hits and two runs, one of which was unearned, in the Lakewood BlueClaws’ 3-2 win over Hagerstown. Halladay walked three and struck out four. His fastball touched 89 mph in the first inning but averaged 87 for the six innings, according to radar guns behind home plate.
Halladay’s velocity has been a hot-button issue since the spring of 2012, when he first began to experience shoulder and back problems. In what seemed like an effort to downplay Halladay’s velocity, no radar gun readings were shown on the scoreboard at FirstEnergy Park. Gun readings are usually shown at the ballpark. An official from the Lakewood club said he had no idea why the readings were not shown.
Halladay, 36, has maintained contact with Dr. Neal ElAttrache, who performed surgery on the pitcher on May 15. ElAttrache tells Halladay that the velocity will come.
“He said velocity is the last thing you need to worry about,” Halladay said. “That will be there as I build.”
Halladay believes he made strides with his cutter Tuesday night, but he does not appear to be a pitcher that is ready for major-league competition. He left the game with the score tied, 2-2, but could have trailed if rightfielder Jiandido Tromp hadn’t made a nice running catch in the gap, saving what might have been a two-run triple in the sixth.
Halladay’s command was spotty. He threw 90 pitches in six innings, 52 of which were strikes. At one point in the fourth inning, he threw eight straight balls.
Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. was in attendance but did not stop to speak with reporters. This was Halladay’s second rehab start -- he pitched six innings in a Gulf Coast League game last week -- and Amaro had previously said there was a chance Halladay could return to the Phillies’ rotation after two rehab starts. It’s difficult to imagine that happening, however. Halladay didn’t exactly dominate hitters at one of the lowest rungs of pro ball Tuesday night.
Asked if he was ready to return to the majors, Halladay said, “That’s out of my control. Obviously I want to pitch in five days, but where -- that’s not my call.”
However, Halladay was pleased with his progress and the way he felt physically.
“I’m happy where things are at being three months out from surgery,” he said. “Things are getting consistently better.”
Halladay will be a free agent at season’s end. Phillies officials want to get a look at him in big-league competition in September to gauge whether they want to re-sign him. Other clubs will also take a peek at Halladay in September.
The pitcher isn’t concerned about the future. He just wants to complete his comeback from shoulder surgery.
“I’m not worried about that. I’m really not,” Halladay said. “I’ve played a long time. I’m not playing for money. I’m not playing for anything else. If I have a situation where I have a chance to win, I might pay them.
“I don’t have to play, I want to play.”