Halladay exits early, his season is over

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Halladay exits early, his season is over

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MIAMI -- In the city where he once pitched the greatest game of his life, Roy Halladay might have thrown his last pitch for the Phillies.

The 36-year-old pitcher left Monday night’s 4-0 loss to the Miami Marlins after facing just three batters and recording only one out (see Instant Replay).

The official word: Arm fatigue.

“I could have kept pitching and it wasn’t going to hurt anything,” Halladay said. “But (the ball) wasn’t going to come out of my hand any better.”

Halladay said he felt no pain in his right shoulder, which was surgically repaired on May 15. However, he will not make his final scheduled start of the season Saturday in Atlanta.

“I haven’t been getting that bounce-back,” he said. “I spoke with (surgeon Neal ElAttrache) and he said, ‘You need rest.’ From what I understand, they’re going to have me start that now.”

Halladay still believes he can come back -- somewhere -- and be effective next season.

Later in his postgame interview with reporters, Halladay admitted that this has been a “stressful” season. He went on to admit that he’s dealt with more than shoulder issues. He said he recently began taking medication for an illness related to diet.

“We got it figured out,” said Halladay, whose weight is noticeably down. “Some of it’s personal. It’s a family history deal. It took us a while to figure out the cause and basically it’s related to diet. They put me on some medicine that will prevent that from happening and ever since then it’s been great.”

Halladay expounded on the stress of the season.

“Really the whole year has been stressful,” he said. “Going from not knowing what’s going on to having surgery, to being away from the team and then not being able to contribute -- that all weighs on you. It will be good physically and mentally just to get that break and come back.”

Halladay said he had no regrets coming back and pitching 3½ months after surgery.

“Had I not been so determined to pitch, I could have just rehabbed,” he said. “I felt an obligation to the organization and to fulfill my contract.”

Monday night’s 16-pitch outing was the shortest of Halladay’s career. He walked two of the three batters he faced. Only five of the pitches he threw were strikes. His best fastball -- if you can call it that -- was 83 mph. He walked the first hitter, Donovan Solano, on four pitches.

“After the first hitter, (pitching coach Rich) Dubee went over to the stairs,” manager Ryne Sandberg said. “He was on close watch. We were all on close watch. We didn’t know what those pitches were. Change-ups? We didn’t know.”

Dubee went to the mound after Halladay walked the Marlins’ third hitter.

At the mound, Dubee spoke for a moment with Halladay, who was perspiring heavily in the climate-controlled 77-degree domed stadium. Dubee signaled to the dugout for Sandberg and a team trainer. After several moments of discussion, Halladay walked from the field.

Asked about his heavy sweating, Halladay said: “It was a lot of effort to throw.”

Halladay is in the final year of a three-year, $60 million contract that he signed when he was traded from Toronto to the Phillies before the 2010 season. He will be a free agent at the end of the season and his performance and health have raised serious questions of whether the Phillies will attempt to re-sign him.

Halladay has a 6.82 ERA in 62 innings this season. He has issued 36 walks. To put that in perspective, he has had five seasons in his career in which he has reached 220 innings and recorded 35 or fewer walks. In 2010, his first season with the Phillies, he won the NL Cy Young award while pitching 250 2/3 innings and walking just 30.

Halladay threw a perfect game for the Phillies in Miami on May 29, 2010. He raised his arms like a conquering hero that night.

Now, there is a possibility he has thrown his last pitch for the club in Miami. Before Monday night’s game, GM Ruben Amaro Jr. said he would “love to” have Halladay back next season, but he would not say whether he intended to make the pitcher an offer.

“I don’t know what the future holds,” Halladay said. “But I want to go somewhere that wants me and somewhere that’s going to have a shot.

“If things go the way I’ve been told they’re going to go, I’m going to be able to be competitive next year. I’ve never given up the hope that I could pitch here again, but obviously that’s a mutual decision.”

Nola, bench, the kids and more: A half-dozen issues to watch as Phillies get set to play games

Nola, bench, the kids and more: A half-dozen issues to watch as Phillies get set to play games

CLEARWATER, Fla. — For the first time since Oct. 2 when Ryan Howard tipped his cap and Hector Neris retired Kevin Plawecki on a ground ball to third base to give them a 5-2 win over the New York Mets, the Phillies will play a game on Thursday afternoon.

They will host the University of Tampa for the third straight year in an exhibition game at Spectrum Field. The Spartans are 7-2 and ranked No. 2 in NCAA Division II.

Manager Pete Mackanin will take the opportunity to look at a number of minor-league prospects in his starting lineup on Thursday. Minor-league right-hander Mark Leiter Jr. will start for the Phillies.

The Phillies will play a number of their projected regular players in Friday’s Grapefruit League opener against the Yankees in Tampa.

As the games get going, the evaluations and decision-making process ramps up for Mackanin, the coaching staff and the front office.

Let’s take a look at the six biggest storylines that will unfold over the course of the Grapefruit League season:

Aaron Nola
So far, so good for the right-hander who missed the last two months of the 2016 season with an elbow injury. He says he is completely healthy and his early-camp bullpen sessions have gone smoothly.

But game action will bring a rise in intensity and a truer gauge of Nola’s health. He is expected to make his first start sometime next week.

“I'm real anxious to see Nola pitch,” manager Pete Mackanin said Wednesday. “We all know what he's capable of doing when he's healthy. Right now, he appears to be and says he is 100 percent. My only concern for him is as we go along into the season, if it's going to come back to haunt him. Right now, I'm real pleased at the way he's throwing and the way he looks. He feels very confident.”

Nola has no limits, but ...

“We will have to keep a close eye on him,” Mackanin said. “All the pitchers, actually. Especially him. I know how good he can be. I'm looking forward to seeing him pitch. Hopefully, every outing he has, he won't show any signs of it. That's the only thing I'm concerned about, that thing coming back.”

The bullpen
Mackanin opened camp by saying that Jeanmar Gomez was his closer — “at this point.”

Like all pitchers, Gomez will need some time and innings to get into a spring rhythm. Serious evaluation of him probably won’t happen until later in the spring. If he pitches well, he will most likely seize the closer job that he lost last September. If he struggles, he could end up forfeiting the closer gig to Hector Neris or Joaquin Benoit and move into a setup role, where he had success in 2015 and could be an asset because of his ability to pitch multiple innings. For the record, Gomez says he will be happy in whatever role Mackanin asks him to fill.

Other roles are open in the bullpen. In particular, Mackanin is looking for at least one lefty and ideally two. Joely Rodriguez probably has the inside track for one lefty spot because he’s on the 40-man roster. Adam Morgan will get starter’s innings in camp, but he could end up in the bullpen. Veterans Cesar Ramos and Sean Burnett, both in camp on minor-league contracts, will each get a serious look to make the club.

Hitting approach
The Phillies were last in the majors in runs (610) and second-to-last in batting average (.240) and on-base percentage (.301) in 2016.

New hitting coach Matt Stairs is trying to improve the team’s on-base skills by stressing a gap-to-gap approach and not giving away at-bats. In other words, have a plan before the at-bat, key on a particular zone early in the count and don’t expand until there are two strikes.

Turning these hitters into a group that works counts, grinds out at-bats and gets on base won’t happen overnight, but Mackanin would like to see some progress in exhibition play.

“It takes a while for all of it to settle in,” Mackanin said. “When you hit a certain way your whole life or your thought process is a certain way your whole life, it's hard to make changes because you're out of your comfort zone. The important thing is for the players to buy into what Matt Stairs is selling. If they do that, I think we're going to improve.”

The bench
Barring injury, the starting eight position jobs are settled, but there is intrigue on the bench. Outfielder Aaron Altherr and infielder Andres Blanco appear to be locks and it’s difficult to imagine infielder/outfielder Chris Coghlan not making the club. There are others in the mix, including veteran Daniel Nava.

The most intriguing bench question is who will be the backup catcher? Prospect Andrew Knapp will get a long look both behind the plate and at first base as he bids to win a reserve role at both positions. Big-league veterans Bryan Holaday and Ryan Hanigan are also vying for the role of backup catcher.

A roster sleeper?
Last year, little known outfielder Cedric Hunter hit his way onto the opening day roster.

Will there be a repeat this spring?

Keep an eye on Brock Stassi and Andrew Pullin. Both are in camp as non-roster players. Both swing from the left side, have strong minor-league hitting resumes and could be very much in play if the Phils want to add a bat off the bench.

Pullin is a corner outfielder with a short, quick stroke that will remind you of Jim Eisenreich. Stassi has a good bat and could bring some versatility with his ability to play first base and outfield.

The kids
It’s always fun to look at the next wave of potential Phillies early in the Grapefruit League season. Outfielder Roman Quinn was one of the most exciting players in camp last year and he’s primed for another good showing before heading off to Triple A finishing school.

Top prospect J.P. Crawford will get a lot of looks at shortstop before heading to minor-league camp, and it will be fun to watch the power bats of Rhys Hoskins and Dylan Cozens; they combined for 78 homers at Double A last season.

Catcher Jorge Alfaro and outfielder Nick Williams, both heading into important seasons at Triple A, will get playing time, commencing with starting assignments on Thursday.

Phillies prospect Victor Arano out at least a month with elbow injury

Phillies prospect Victor Arano out at least a month with elbow injury

CLEARWATER, Fla. – The Phillies received some good and bad news on pitcher Victor Arano.

He was diagnosed with a sprain of the ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow.

Surgery was not prescribed, which is good news.

The bad news, he’s been shut down for at least a month.

Arano’s injury was treated with a platelet-rich plasma (PRP) injection.

The 22-year-old from Mexico said he first started feeling some tenderness in the elbow during a stint in the Arizona Fall League. He experienced some swelling in the elbow after reporting to camp earlier this month.

Arano is an intriguing prospect. He was acquired from the Dodgers as part of the package for starter Roberto Hernandez in August 2014. He impressed team officials in spring training 2015 and really took a big step forward after moving to the bullpen last season. He pitched 79 2/3 innings in 46 games at Single A Clearwater and Double A Reading and recorded a 2.26 ERA while striking out 95 and walking just 19.

Arano’s stuff has been compared to that of Edubray Ramos, who jumped from Double A to Triple A to the majors last season.

The injury means Arano will have to start the season on the disabled list.

In other health news, pitcher Jake Thompson graduated to a bullpen mound on Wednesday. He had been slowed by a sore wrist, but is fine now. Thompson proved that by winning the longest drive at Tuesday’s annual team golf outing.

Thompson lines up to open the season at Triple A.