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.”

Best of MLB: Royals storm back in 9th inning for win over Blue Jays

Best of MLB: Royals storm back in 9th inning for win over Blue Jays

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Whit Merrifield hit a two-run, two-out double that capped a four-run rally in the ninth inning, and the Kansas City Royals beat the Toronto Blue Jays 5-4 on Friday night to reach .500 for the first time since April.

With their 10th win in 12 games, the Royals improved to 36-36. They were 6-6 before play on April 20, then went on a nine-game losing streak that night and dropped as low as 10-20, seven games out of first place. They trail AL Central-leading Cleveland by three games.

Toronto took a 2-1 lead into the ninth and extended it when Josh Donaldson and Justin Smoak hit RBI singles off Joakim Soria (4-2) (see full recap).

Dodgers cruise past Rockies for 8th straight win
LOS ANGELES -- Yasiel Puig homered and left-hander Alex Wood kept his record perfect as the streaking Los Angeles Dodgers defeated the NL West rival Colorado Rockies 6-1 on Friday night for their eighth consecutive victory.

The Dodgers have won 14 of their last 15 games. They have scored at least six runs in seven consecutive games.

Wood (8-0) allowed one run in six innings. He gave up only three hits and walked two, retiring his last 10 batters.

The Dodgers have homered in 15 consecutive games, tied for fourth-longest streak in club history. The last time they managed it was in 1977. Their record is 24 consecutive games with a home run.

Rookie left-hander Kyle Freeman (8-4) allowed five runs and a career-high 10 hits and three walks in six innings (see full recap).

Torreyes hits walk-off single to lift Yanks over Rangers
NEW YORK -- Ronald Torreyes hit a game-winning single with two outs in the 10th inning after midnight, and the New York Yankees edged the Texas Rangers 2-1 on a rainy Friday night for just their second win in 10 games.

Brett Gardner lined a tying home run with one out in the New York ninth off closer Matt Bush. After Chasen Shreve (2-1) escaped a bases-loaded jam in the top of the 10th, Torreyes kept the Yankees atop the AL East.

Yu Darvish and Masahiro Tanaka kept it scoreless into the late innings in the first major league meeting between the Japanese stars (see full recap).

Mark Leiter Jr. picks up 1st big-league win as Phillies cool off Diamondbacks

Mark Leiter Jr. picks up 1st big-league win as Phillies cool off Diamondbacks

BOX SCORE

PHOENIX -- The clubhouse was beginning to clear and still the star of the game had not yet emerged from the shower.

"He's in there cleaning the guacamole and mayo out of his hair," Cameron Rupp said with a laugh.

Eventually Mark Leiter Jr. made it out of the shower and over to his locker where equipment man Phil Sheridan presented him with three game balls, souvenirs from not only his first big-league start but his first big-league win, as well.

"It's something I'll never forget," the 26-year-old right-hander from Toms River, N.J., said pitching six shutout innings to backbone the Phillies' 6-1 win over the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field on Friday night (see Instant Replay).

"I’ll be honest, I was probably more excited for this than I was for my major-league debut. To go out there and contribute to a win is what I was hoping to do."

Leiter, a 22nd-round draft pick by the Phillies in 2013, had never made it onto the 40-man roster until the Phils needed a reliever in mid-April and gave him a shot after he'd gotten off to a good start at Triple A. He spent six weeks in the majors and made 12 relief appearances before being sent back to Triple A the first weekend of June.

Leiter worked as a starter during his time back at Triple A. He pitched six shutout innings against Syracuse in his last start and got the call to come back up when Jerad Eickhoff went on the disabled list with a back strain earlier this week.

Leiter's return assignment was not easy: The Diamondbacks are one of the best hitting clubs in the majors and the best on their home turf. They entered the game scoring 6.48 runs per game at home and with an .886 OPS, both major-league bests.

None of that fazed Leiter.

"In my opinion, this is the big leagues and it doesn’t matter who the lineup is," he said. "They all have the ability to hit and hit well. They’re all big-leaguers and they've earned their right to be big-leaguers. I was just trying to pitch to the team you're facing that day."

Leiter trusted his low-90s fastball and commanded it well. He mixed in his secondary stuff and kept the D-backs off-balance with his splitter. He scattered three hits, walked one and struck out five. He showed no fear.

"Great performance," manager Pete Mackanin said. "He made it look easy. He made a lot of good hitters look bad with his split. For him to come up and do that to a real good hitting team was outstanding."

Leiter's dad, Mark Sr., pitched for the Phillies in 1997 and 1998. He made the trip in from New Jersey to watch his son's first big-league start.

"I guess they found him on TV," Leiter said. "That's what they were telling me. I'm sure he wasn't too pleased they found him because he was probably stressed out. But I think it was probably worth him coming out here. He's probably happy."

How could he not be?

Leiter's teammates were definitely happy.

They treated Leiter to a raucous postgame dousing that included as many different condiments as could be found in the clubhouse dining room. One laughing player had a bottle of ketchup in his hands. Another had a squeeze bottle of honey.

And then there was the guacamole and mayo that Rupp mentioned.

"In his first major-league start, to come up here and do that in what is known as a good hitters’ park - that proves Mark is pretty strong between the ears," Tommy Joseph said. "He's been one of those under-the-radar guys that people have doubted, but his mentality and ability to prepare are second to none."

Joseph played a big role in the win, smacking a two-run homer in the ninth inning to give the Phillies some breathing room. Maikel Franco also had a big home run and Freddy Galvis contributed an important triple that led to a Phillies' run in the first inning.

The Phils still have the worst record in the majors at 24-48, but they've won two in a row, both on the back of good starting pitching performances. Aaron Nola pitched 7 1/3 innings of one-run ball on Thursday.

And Leiter delivered on Friday.

"It's good to see those back-to-back," Mackanin said.