SARASOTA, Fla. So it seems as if the reports about Roy Halladays demise have been greatly exaggerated.
A week after a Fox Sports report claimed that Halladays velocity was down significantly, a claim quickly dismissed by the pitcher, manager Charlie Manuel, the pitching coach Rich Dubee and general manager Ruben Amaro Jr., the Phillies ace turned in his best outing of the spring.
Halladay allowed just three hits and one run in six innings with five strikeouts and no walks in the Phillies 4-1 victory over the Orioles at Ed Smith Stadium on Tuesday afternoon. Halladay entered the game sporting a 10.57 ERA in 7 23 innings, a point addressed in the Fox Sports report, but that number was reduced significantly after the outing against the Orioles.
The ERA is now at a robust 6.59 and Halladay added his first win of the spring to go with it.
It makes you happy, I can tell you that, Halladay said about his strong performance. Theres a fine line between knowing what you need to accomplish and trying to prove a point or getting caught up in that. I think that is something that you try to learn and be aware of. It bothers you, but ultimately you have to keep in mind whats going on and what you are trying to accomplish down here. Like I said last time, you have to evaluate it based on that.
To that point, Halladay has struck out 15 batters in 13 23 innings this spring. Reports were that his fastball was topping out at 88-89 mph in his previous outings, but on Tuesday Halladay consistently threw the heater in the low-90s.
Halladay said the improved velocity and command on his pitches came from just a little tinkering in the bullpen. Then again, thats the entire point of spring training, he said.
Tempo was better. I tried to work on that in my past bullpen, Halladay said. I tried to speed things up and be a little more aggressive with my mechanics. I thought my tempo was too slow. We did that and it seemed to work. It put me in a little better spot to repeat and get my arm in same slot every time. My tempo was too slow.
Halladay allowed a run in the first inning after his first pitch of the game plunked Nolan Reimold. That set the table for Adam Jones two-out double to plate the Orioles lone run.
After the double by Jones, Halladay struck out the next three hitters he faced and retired the next eight in a row. He allowed another hit to Jones, but quickly took care of him by forcing Matt Wieters to ground into a double play.
J.J. Hardy led off the fifth inning with a single, but that was the last base runner the Orioles got against Halladay as he retired the final six hitters he faced.
In all, Halladay threw 72 pitches (51 strikes) and his off-speed pitches were particularly sharp.
He got his command in the second or third inning, manager Charlie Manuel offered. He had good command of his pitches.
Meanwhile, Halladay is on target to start on Opening Day on April 4 for the 11th season in a row. He is next scheduled to pitch on Sunday against the Orioles in Clearwater. Hell start again five days and then he likely will go against the Pirates in Pittsburgh.
The Phillies havent officially named their starter for Opening Day, but maybe they dont really have to at this point. Regardless, Halladay is focusing on being ready to go when the bell rings.
I threw five bullpens coming into camp. Theres a portion of spring where you feel like you are playing catch up, Halladay explained. Later in the spring, you feel like your body has caught up a little bit. I think you feel like you are up to that. Still think theres a way to go and things to improve on. But I think we made good corrections and weve got something to build on now.
Of course, one would suspect that the Phillies and their pitchers might feel a little extra pressure considering the injuries to the core of their starting lineup. Ryan Howard is out with a ruptured Achilles and Chase Utley seemed destined for the disabled list with his chronic knee ailments, too.
When asked how the Phillies can persevere with a pair of big hitters likely on the shelf, general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. told reporters that the team is going to have to survive on pitching and defense.
So hows that for pressure, Doc?
I dont think theres a guy on the staff or field who doesnt expect to go out and do their job. Thats what Im going to go out and do, and hold myself accountable, Halladay said. I dont think that means more pressure. One guy isnt going to make up for a lack of two guys. It has to be a team effort. Have to do a job consistently. We have enough good players. We dont need a star everyday we just need to go out there and do what were supposed to do.
I signed to a competitive team and thats what I think we still have. If I was in Toronto and we lost two of our major guys, we would have had a hard time competing. I came here because it is a different situation and weve seen it the last five years. They overcome. Ruben is aggressive and when things need to get done, they get done.
Next for the Phillies comes the first off-day of the spring on Wednesday and then a date in Dunedin with the Blue Jays. The Phillies return to Bright House Field on Friday to face the Yankees before hitting the road again for a game in Ft. Myers against the Red Sox on Saturday.
E-mail John R. Finger at firstname.lastname@example.org.