Halladay eager to ramp up rehab in Clearwater

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Halladay eager to ramp up rehab in Clearwater

Roy Halladay has enjoyed smooth sailing since having shoulder surgery in May. He has reached the 75-pitch mark in bullpen sessions and seen the bite come back to his curveball. Now, it’s time to increase the intensity of his rehab as he looks to return to the Phillies’ rotation in the coming weeks.

Halladay will head to Clearwater, Fla., on Thursday to resume his workouts. He is scheduled to pitch a simulated game against minor-league hitters on Saturday. Halladay said it was possible he could pitch in an official minor-league game next week, but the decision on how to proceed won’t be made until he sees how he bounces back after Saturday’s simulated game and club officials will be involved in the decision.

“I'm feeling good,” Halladay said. “Everything, so far, has gone how we mapped it out. There are definitely days where you feel like the ball jumps better than others. I'm still very encouraged overall that things have gone well.”

General manager Ruben Amaro Jr. is on record as saying that he hopes Halladay can be back pitching in the Phillies’ rotation “by September.”

Halladay, 36, will be a free agent at the end of the season. The Phillies, according to sources, would like to re-sign him, but will need to evaluate his health during the month of September. You can bet other teams will be watching Halladay, as well. The right-hander, a two-time Cy Young winner, won’t command $20 million a year anymore, but there will be a market for him if he's healthy.

“I'm not worried about next year,” Halladay said. “I'm not coming back to try to get a contract for next year, a bigger contract, anything like that. I just want to come back and pitch. After that, hopefully make a decision on where I can win. I hope that's here.”

Even as the Phillies have stumbled badly after the all-star break, Halladay looks at this as a team that can win next year. He mentioned the play of Domonic Brown and Chase Utley. He said he likes Cody Asche’s swing and the possibility of Michael Young staying around. Halladay added that he believes Ryan Howard will come back and be healthy and productive.

There could be another variable in Halladay’s decision on whether to return to the Phillies.

He is very close to pitching coach Rich Dubee, who, like manager Charlie Manuel, is in the final year of his contract. Halladay acknowledged that Dubee’s future with the club could impact his decision.

“To me, it’s important,” he said. “I never was very fortunate in Toronto to have long-term pitching coaches. They were in and out pretty quick. I felt like the longer I had a guy, the more he knew me, the more he could help me. Rich has been unbelievable since I’ve been here. He’s helped me tremendously. That is definitely something to think about. If he’s here, you know what you’re going to get. If you go somewhere else, you don’t know how you’re going to mesh with those guys or how they’re going to help you or if they can see things you can’t see. But I know what I have here and am very grateful for what I have here. Those are baseball decisions that are beyond my control.”

Halladay’s shoulder injury prevented him from getting his arm up to an optimum release point as he struggled to an 8.65 ERA in seven starts before shutting down in May. He has watched video of his recent bullpen sessions and says his arm angle is back to where it was in 2011 when he went 19-6 with a 2.35 ERA and finished second in the NL Cy Young voting. He said the higher arm angle has helped him recover the downward break on his curveball.

Halladay equated his current status to where he would be in spring training. When he gets on the mound for a rehab start, be it next week or shortly after that, he will be looking to excel.

“I want to make sure when I start my rehab assignment I feel like I am able to compete at a high level,” he said. “I want to compete in those games like I would (in the majors) so I know where I stand when I get here. I’m not interested in coming back and pitching at the same level I was early this year. I want to come back and pitch at a high level.”

Asked if he was targeting a date for a return to the majors, Halladay said: “As soon as possible.”

A.J. Ellis still adjusting, learning names as he joins the Phillies

A.J. Ellis still adjusting, learning names as he joins the Phillies

NEW YORK – It wasn’t easy leaving the only professional organization he’d ever been part of, but new Phillie A.J. Ellis, acquired from the Los Angeles Dodgers in the Carlos Ruiz trade Thursday, is coming to terms with it.

“To find out that the trade went down, it was hard,” Ellis said upon reporting to his new club Saturday. “It was so immediate and sudden, really hard to say goodbye to a lot of relationships I had been blessed to forge for more than a decade.

“But the waves of emotion are getting farther and farther apart, which is a good thing.”

Ellis, 35, was drafted by the Dodgers in 2003 and rose to the majors with them in 2008. With the Phillies, he will serve a similar role to the one he played with the Dodgers – backup catcher. Ellis wasted no time getting to know the pitching staff he will now work with. He arrived at Citi Field early Saturday afternoon and caught Jake Thompson and Jerad Eickhoff in their between-starts bullpen sessions.

Ellis said “Eichorn” when referring to Eickhoff. He’s forgiven. It’s been a whirlwind week.

“See?” he said. “I’m still learning names.”

Ellis, who served as the personal catcher for Dodgers’ ace Clayton Kershaw, was blindsided by the trade.

“When I was summoned to the ballpark, that’s never really a good thing, especially when the front office wants to meet with you as far as where you’re at with the club, you know some kind of transition is happening,” he said. “The first 12 hours were definitely the hardest.

“But to arrive here and arrive in the clubhouse, meeting the staff, I’m starting to feel re-energized, refilled with a sense of purpose as to why I’ve been placed here, and why this is where I need to be at this time. I’m excited about that.

"I know I have huge shoes to fill. Carlos Ruiz is such a fixture in the Phillies organization. The work that he’s done here behind the plate, you can’t fill. This guy is a world champion catcher who has been back there for so many great baseball memories. So it’s up to me to do my part to fill the void.”

Manager Pete Mackanin thought about putting Ellis in the lineup Saturday night then had some mercy when he figured facing hard-throwing Mets right-hander Noah Syndergaard might not be the best indoctrination for a guy who just flew cross-country. Ellis is likely to start Sunday afternoon’s series finale and catch Vince Velasquez.

That doesn’t mean he wasn’t asked to make a contribution to Saturday night’s game. Mackanin said he wanted Ellis to speak with the Phillies hitters about the weaknesses the Dodger pitchers tried to exploit.

“We talk to them about this stuff all the time, but it might help to hear it from an outside source,” Mackanin said.

Ellis left a first-place club for a rebuilding team. That’s not easy. He has come to terms with that. He likes the young talent on the Phillies’ roster and hopes to help it come to flower.

“Guys are playing for their careers,” he said. “Guys are playing to make their mark in this game and create a winning franchise once again in Philadelphia. 

"You see the talent, you see their desire to learn, their desire to get better. You just know the youth on this staff, the talent level on this staff. And if I can in some short time here impact some wisdom on those guys, share some of the wisdom along the way that I’ve picked up from some great mentors I’ve had in my time in the game, I need to pay it back, from what all has been given to me.”

Ellis hit just .197 with a .285 on-base percentage in 53 games for the Dodgers this season. That’s one of the reasons the Dodgers acquired Ruiz – to get more production from their right-handed-hitting backup catcher. Ruiz had a .369 on-base percentage at the time of the trade.

Phillies’ general manager Matt Klentak was “adamant” that Ellis come back on the deal because he wanted someone who could fill Ruiz’ void on (behind the plate) and off (with clubhouse leadership) the field. Ellis’ time with the Phillies might be short. He will be a free agent at the end of the season and his playing time might be scant as September unfolds. The Phils will probably add prospect Jorge Alfaro to the catching mix sometime during that month. Management seems eager to get a look at him while still getting No. 1 catcher Cameron Rupp the game reps he needs.

Tonight's Lineup: After hitting 6th Friday, Odubel Herrera moves up to 2-hole

Tonight's Lineup: After hitting 6th Friday, Odubel Herrera moves up to 2-hole

After watching his club get smacked around in a 9-4 loss to the Mets on Friday, Phillies manager Pete Mackanin has tinkered with his lineup for Saturday's game at Citi Field.

Odubel Herrera moves up to the two-hole after hitting sixth Friday, while Aaron Altherr goes from second to third and Jimmy Paredes gets the start in left and bats seventh. Ryan Howard starts again at first base and bats fifth.

Herrera, who has been struggling since the All-Star break with a .257 average, has lost his leadoff spot to Cesar Hernandez but is starting to find his swing again.

In the last seven days, Herrera is 5 for 17 with a double and a run scored. In August, the centerfielder is hitting .288 with two homers and five RBIs.

Altherr, who played left field Friday, moves over to right field and Peter Bourjos gets the night off. Altherr is hitting .255 with four home runs and 19 RBIs on the season.

Here is the full Phillies lineup:

1. Cesar Hernandez, 2B
2. Odubel Herrera, CF
3. Aaron Altherr, RF
4. Maikel Franco, 3B
5. Ryan Howard, 1B
6. Cameron Rupp, C
7. Jimmy Paredes, LF
8. Freddy Galvis, SS
9. Jeremy Hellickson, P

For more on tonight's's game, check out Steven Tydings' game notes.

Phillies option Jorge Alfaro back to Double A Reading

Phillies option Jorge Alfaro back to Double A Reading

As expected, the Phillies on Saturday optioned prized catching prospect Jorge Alfaro back to Double A Reading after a one game stint with the big club.

Alfaro was called up for Friday's series opener in New York against the Mets because newly acquired veteran backstop A.J. Ellis had yet to arrive with the team. Ellis was acquired Thursday from the Los Angeles Dodgers as part of the trade that sent Carlos Ruiz to L.A.

The 23-year-old Alfaro is expected to return to the Phillies once Reading's season is over and MLB rosters expand in September. The Fightin Phils, at 83-48, are the Eastern League's top team and very much could make it to the championship series.

Alfaro, acquired in the Cole Hamels trade last summer, has a .279 average with 13 home runs and 61 RBIs in 90 games with Reading this season. He did not get play Friday night against the Mets.