Eager to help pitchers blossom physically and mentally, Roy Halladay returns to Phillies

Eager to help pitchers blossom physically and mentally, Roy Halladay returns to Phillies

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- It was former major-league pitcher Jim Bouton who once said, "You spend a good piece of your life gripping a baseball and in the end, it turns out that it was the other way around all the time."

Roy Halladay is the latest embodiment of that bit of insight.

"I definitely want to get back in," the two-time Cy Young award winner said.

He is back.

Two months shy of his 40th birthday, Halladay put on a uniform Tuesday morning and began a stint as a guest instructor in Phillies camp. The appointment is likely a precursor of a more lasting role with club, likely a position where he works with pitchers on developing their physical and mental skills. Halladay was a disciple of the late Harvey Dorfman, a pioneering sports psychologist, and has recently studied the subject at the University of South Florida.

"That's something that's really being addressed, almost through every organization now to some degree," Halladay said. "I think it's awesome. I think it's such a huge part of the game."

The Phillies do, too. Over the winter, the team hired Geoff Miller as it's first mental-skills coach.

It has been 3½ years since Halladay's right shoulder gave out and he walked off the field in Miami, ending a career that could land him in the Hall of Fame someday.

Halladay might have walked away from big-league competition after 390 starts, 203 wins, a perfect game, a postseason no-hitter and a pair of Cy Young awards, but he did not walk away from the game.

The grip is too strong.

He has coached his two sons, Braden, 16, and Ryan, 12, as they've climbed the youth ranks, and now serves as the pitching coach at Calvary Christian High School, just a mile east of the Phillies' spring training complex. Braden is a sophomore pitcher on that team.

"It's been awesome," Halladay said. "They have six Division I commits."

When Halladay came to the Phillies from Toronto after the 2009 season, he was already one of the best pitchers in baseball. He'd risen to that distinction despite struggling to find consistency with his changeup. Upon arriving in Philadelphia, Halladay learned a new grip for the pitch from former Phils pitching coach Rich Dubee. With the help of Dubee's two-seam split-grip changeup, Halladay became even better in Philadelphia.

He now teaches that pitch to his pupils at Calvary Christian.

"I haven't taught any cutters yet," Halladay said with a laugh. "I'm stealing Dubee's trick, I'm teaching everybody changeups.

"I tell you what, it's one of the easiest for young kids to be able to throw. It's not that complicated, it's an easy grip. And they usually get decent results out of it. I've got to thank Dubee for that. The parents are thanking me."

This summer, Halladay will visit Cooperstown, New York, where son Ryan's team will play in a tournament. Halladay, of course, could be right back there someday as a member of the Hall of Fame. He will be eligible for the class of 2019.

"It would obviously be a tremendous honor," he said. "I don't know that I think about it, honestly. You see guys get in that are deserving, and you see guys that are possibly deserving that don't get in. Boy, it's a tough thing to figure out. But absolutely I would love to be there. I think every player who ever played the game would love to be there. It's just hope for the best."

Away from baseball, Halladay has logged 800 hours as an airplane pilot.

"I got my instrument rating, my multi-engine rating and I'm working on my commercial rating," he said. "So, I'm trying to progress through it. I'd like to be able to instruct so I can teach my boys."

As Halladay returns to the pro game, he'll spend a lot of time with his eyes and ears open. He watched Zach Eflin, Jake Thompson and Alberto Tirado throw to hitters on Tuesday. He will keep watching on Wednesday and when he decides to speak up you can bet he'll have something valuable to offer, something that could help a pitcher physically or mentally.

"More than anything I just want to get to know these guys, and any way I can help I'll be happy to," Halladay said. "If they have any concerns or want to talk about things that helped me be successful -- I can cover a range of things. For me, it's just a pleasure to be able to help out."

Phillies trim roster, send Tyler Goeddel, Jake Thompson to minors

Phillies trim roster, send Tyler Goeddel, Jake Thompson to minors

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- With a week to go before they leave Florida, the Phillies made several roster moves on Friday morning.

Outfielder Tyler Goeddel, who spent all of last season in the majors, was optioned to the minor leagues.

Pitcher Jake Thompson, who made 10 starts in the majors for the Phillies last season, was also optioned to the minors. He is expected to open the season in the starting rotation at Triple A Lehigh Valley.

Goeddel, 24, joined the Phillies organization in December 2015 after being selected in the Rule 5 draft. He had originally been a first-round draft pick of the Tampa Bay Rays in 2011.

Players selected in the Rule 5 draft must spend an entire season in the majors or be exposed to waivers and offered back to their original club. The Phillies kept Goeddel all of last season, fully securing his rights, but he received only 213 at-bats and hit just .192 with four homers and 16 RBIs.

The news on Goeddel was not completely surprising. The wintertime additions of outfielders Howie Kendrick and Michael Saunders had made Goeddel a long shot to make the team.

"I knew going into camp I was going to have to earn my spot," he said. "There's a lot of guys in here that have been playing well. Whatever happened happened."

Goeddel needs to recoup some at-bats in the minor leagues. The question is: where? The Phillies have three top outfield prospects -- Roman Quinn, Nick Williams and Dylan Cozens -- who will require regular playing time at Triple A. It's possible that Goeddel could open the season at Double A.

Team officials discussed that possibility with him.

"They want me to get more at-bats," Goeddel said. "That's the main thing. Only getting 200 in your age-23 season is not enough.

"They said there's a chance I'm at Reading. I'm not too happy about that but you can't control it. That's where their most openings are and most consistent playing time.

"I want to play every day. It was tough last year playing sparingly. Getting at-bats is going to be great. Obviously, I wish it was up here. But at the end of the day, you can't control it."

Goeddel is still on the 40-man roster and as long as he stays on it can come back to the majors quite easily if a need arises.

"They said that," Goeddel said. "Last year (pitcher Alec) Asher started at Double A and was called up. They said that in there. They just want me to get at-bats. That was their main thing."

Thompson could be one of the first to return to the majors if a need arises in the starting rotation.

The 23-year-old right-hander was one of five prospects that the Phillies acquired from Texas for Cole Hamels in July 2015. He went 11-5 with a 2.50 ERA in 21 starts at Triple A last season and 3-6 with a 5.70 ERA with the big club.

The Phils also reassigned pitcher Dalier Hinojosa, catcher Logan Moore and infielder Hector Gomez to minor-league camp.

Twins 4, Phillies 2: Aaron Nola encouraged by good health, still looking for command

Twins 4, Phillies 2: Aaron Nola encouraged by good health, still looking for command


CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Aaron Nola has not had a great spring.

But in the big picture, well, maybe he has.

Nola was one of the Phillies' biggest and most important question marks coming into camp. He had missed the final two months of the 2016 season because of an elbow injury. All he needed to do this spring to be in the starting rotation was show that he was healthy.

He's done that.

He pitched 5 2/3 innings against the Minnesota Twins and threw 82 pitches in his fifth start of the spring on Thursday. He gave up six hits, including a two-run homer, walked one and struck out six.

He's up to 17 2/3 innings for the spring -- without an elbow issue.

"I'm over that," Nola said after the game. "My elbow feels really good. I haven't had any pain or problems with it. I don't even think about it throwing or in games.

"Everything has been very positive. My body is healthy."

Nola, who lines up to fill the fifth spot in the Phillies' rotation, hasn't had good results this spring. He has given up 19 hits and 13 earned runs. But, again, the Phillies were only looking for good health.

"He's been working on his changeup," manager Pete Mackanin said. "Today, he threw more changeups than I've ever seen him throw. The changeup he threw for the home run, he admitted, 'I would never throw that pitch in a game.' But he's working on it, trying to get it going for him, and I think it's going to be a good pitch for him. 

"He really pitched better than the result he got. He had a lot of work with his changeup, which is important. He was as sharp as we've seen him."

Coming into camp, Mackanin was concerned about Nola's health.

"I'm less concerned right now," the manager said. "It's always going to be in the back of my mind. But it's good to see 92, 93, 94 (mph) coming out of his hand, which is important. Once he regains that command, and he showed real good command of his fastball down in the zone today, he's going to be back to where he was -- with even maybe a little more velocity. We'll see. But the changeup is going to help him. I'm very encouraged."

The game
The Phillies lost, 4-2, to the Twins.

The Phils had 10 hits, two by Odubel Herrera, who homered.

Andrew Knapp, pushing to make the club, started behind the plate and had a double.

The Phillies were just 1 for 8 with runners in scoring position and left nine men on base.

The Phils' bullpen -- Sean Burnett, Edubray Ramos and Hector Neris -- accounted for 3 1/3 innings of scoreless ball.

Up next
The Phils play the Yankees in Tampa on Friday. Jeremy Hellickson will start against CC Sabathia.