Timetable for Roy Halladay's return uncertain

Timetable for Roy Halladay's return uncertain

May 16, 2013, 6:00 pm
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The surgery was successful, and Roy Halladay may pitch again this season.

But it seems just as possible he may not.

Phillies team doctor Michael Ciccotti addressed the media Thursday afternoon to field questions following the team's announcement that Halladay underwent successful arthroscopic surgery on his injured right shoulder.

Halladay will spend time in a sling and could be ready to begin a throwing program in six to eight weeks. The club's prognosis for a potential return is still about three months. On that front, Ciccotti said on multiple occasions that the club was "cautiously optimistic" about Halladay pitching again in 2013.

But when pressed for specifics on a timetable, the doctor acknowledged that the team will "very careful." There are "a lot of ifs," said Ciccotti, who added "it's very possible" Halladay may not return this season.

"We're going to be so careful with Roy Halladay," he said. "Roy wants to be part of this team but he has to meet certain milestones along the way before he can progress to the next level. If he does that -- if he achieves his range of motion, if he's strong, and he can pick up a ball, and if he progress in what is a very specific tossing program, and he can go through each milestone and feel comfortable enough to go to a mound, and he can pitch, and he's comfortable -- he has to pass each of those tests along the way.

"If he doesn't pass them in a way that we're comfortable and he's comfortable, then we're not going to allow him to go out on a mound and not pitch the way he would want to pitch.

Halladay is in the final year of his contract and could hit the market in the offseason as a 36-year-old coming off seven disastrous starts (2-4, 8.65 ERA) and shoulder surgery. The Phillies, meanwhile, will be without -- at least for a while and possibly for the entire season -- a former Cy Young pitcher they expected to rely on. That's all the bad news.

The good news is that according to Ciccotti, what Dr. Neal ElAttrache found when he performed the surgery was something of "a best-case scenario." Halladay's bone spur was more of a common calcification built up in the shoulder of most veteran pitchers and not a spur that was pointing down and rubbing on the rotator cuff. The bone was smoothed during the surgery and is not expected to be a problem in the future.

Moreover, Halladay's rotator cuff did not require suturing. As for his inflamed bursa, which was removed during the surgery, that cushion in his shoulder is expected to regenerate.

Halladay had previously mentioned following a conversation with ElAttrache that a successful surgery could roll back the clock a few years on his career, but Ciccotti clarified Thursday that what ElAttrache was really saying is that Halladay may "feel like he did prior to the onset of his pain," not that he would necessarily return to his prior Cy Young form.

That assumes he returns at all in 2013 or is back with the club in 2014.

Halladay will likely do everything he can to get back as soon as he can, but even Ciccotti admitted that the pitcher is "realistic about everything that's happened."

"Roy Halladay wants to come back and pitch, and he wants to be here and pitch," Cicotti said. "But he wants to pitch the way he feels his teammates deserve, that this management team deserves, and that the fans of Philadelphia deserve.

"And that's not just me protecting him as a physician who cares about him -- not just short-term, but long-term -- but that's also Roy Halladay as an athlete. And that's a special type of athlete."

Whether he's special enough to make it back my season's end remains a question.

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