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 play wait-and-see game with Jerad Eickhoff and Howie Kendrick

Phillies play wait-and-see game with Jerad Eickhoff and Howie Kendrick

PHOENIX -- Jerad Eickhoff and Howie Kendrick both tested their achy body parts on Sunday.

Eickhoff, on the disabled list with an upper back strain, threw two 15-pitch "innings" in the bullpen and was pleased with the results.

"It felt good, no sense of pulling," he said. "We'll see how it feels tomorrow."

Eickhoff's turn in the rotation will come up Wednesday in Seattle. If he can't make the start, Mark Leiter Jr. will. Leiter pitched six shutout innings in his first big-league start on Friday night.

As for Kendrick, who is battling left hamstring tightness, he was not in the starting lineup for a fourth straight game on Sunday. He did run some sprints under the watchful eye of head athletic trainer Scott Sheridan before the game.

"He still feels it, but he's available to pinch-hit," manager Pete Mackanin said.

Is this getting close to being a situation that would require a trip to the disabled list?

"Hopefully not," Mackanin said. "Hopefully he's better tomorrow. If not, I'm hoping he can at least DH in Seattle (on Tuesday). He's one of our best hitters and I want to get him in there. But I've got to be cautious."

Kendrick already spent six weeks on the disabled list with an abdominal injury earlier this season. He's played well when healthy, hitting .355 (43 for 121) with a .414 on-base percentage in 31 games.

The Phillies need to be certain that Kendrick is healthy when they turn him loose because he could hold some trade value in the month of July and a full-blown injury would hurt that.

Phillies release Michael Saunders, Jeanmar Gomez

Phillies release Michael Saunders, Jeanmar Gomez

The Michael Saunders experiment is finally over.

The Phillies have officially released Saunders and reliever Jeanmar Gomez after the pair were designated for assignment Tuesday. After clearing unconditional release waivers, the duo is now free to sign with any team.

Saunders signed a one-year, $9 million deal in the offseason to jolt the Phillies' power-needy corner outfield spots. Saunders floundered in his time with the Phillies, slashing .205/.257/.360 with six home runs, 20 RBIs and 51 strikeouts. Saunders boasted the league's worst on-base percentage among qualified hitters (.257). 

With a white-hot May, Aaron Altherr supplanted Saunders in the outfield, making the Phillies' big offseason acquisition expendable.

After saving 37 games in 2016, Gomez's late-season struggles carried over to 2017. Gomez tossed a 4.85 ERA in 2016, en route to tossing the eighth-most saves in baseball. He was a noticeably different pitcher as the season wore on, as he lost his grip on the closer position. Gomez rounded out the year with a 19.13 ERA in September.

Gomez posted a 7.25 ERA in 18 appearances this season.