Pitching coach Dubee remains confident in Halladay

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Pitching coach Dubee remains confident in Halladay

ATLANTA -- Roy Halladay made all his starts in the second half of last season. He worked diligently conditioning his body to pitch this offseason. He began throwing bullpen sessions in January and had a full spring training.

Despite all this, Halladay continues to have trouble commanding his pitches. That was evident when he needed 95 of them to get just 10 outs in a 9-2 loss to Atlanta on Wednesday night. Sure, Halladay’s nine strikeouts were an encouraging testament to his ability to still get swings and misses, but that positive was trumped by the troubling reality that he lasted just 3 1/3 innings.

That will kill the Phillies’ bullpen if it doesn’t kill Halladay first.

“I’d rather get beat 20-0 and pitch eight innings than pitch 3 1/3,” he said. “That’s got to change.”

With all the work he’s done, one has to wonder what’s taking Halladay so long to put it all together again?

“Bad habits,” pitching coach Rich Dubee said Thursday afternoon. “Bad habits that he acquired when he was hurt.”

Halladay struggled with shoulder and back issues last season. That caused him to lower his arm angle. Dubee said Halladay’s arm angle is higher now, but the pitcher is struggling to iron out his delivery.

“This was a guy who did something as consistently as you could possibly do it for years,” Dubee said. “He developed bad habits to get the ball to the plate last year, trying to work through some health issues. I’m a big believer that the more you do something wrong, the more it becomes ingrained. If you do it wrong, and you do it wrong, and you do it wrong, it takes time to get that feeling out of your body and get the right feeling back in it.”

Halladay, who has pitched over 3,300 professional innings, has a high-mileage shoulder. Dubee has acknowledged that the 35-year-old pitcher doesn’t have the bullets he used to, but he still believes Halladay can succeed. To have success, Halladay must be able to put the ball in good spots -- keep it out of a hitter’s feast zone -- and that starts with a sound delivery.

Will Halladay, with all his wear and tear, be able to regain that delivery?

“Absolutely,” Dubee said. “Over the last three outings I’ve been encouraged each time out. I think he’s building and he continues to build.”

Dubee’s support of Halladay is not surprising. It’s his job. Elsewhere, observers of Halladay’s work are skeptical. Dubee knows that. Halladay knows that. Halladay’s results were not good last year. They were not good in spring training. They were not good Wednesday night -- even in a nine-strikeout effort.

When do the Phillies have to start seeing some results from Halladay?

“I think I am starting to see some results,” Dubee said. “You think I’m going to take the ball away from this guy? You’re talking about a two-time Cy Young Award winner. What do you think, we’re going to put him in the bullpen?

“I’m seeing results. I’m seeing nine strikeouts out of 10 outs last night. Do you see many other guys doing that in baseball? Yu Darvish against the Astros. Yu Darvish wasn’t facing the Atlanta Braves.”

Dubee has been patient with Halladay and will continue to be.

“I’ve always said when you judge players, you go off their track records,” Dubee said. “And who has a longer, better track record than this guy? And not only track record as far as being a quality pitcher, but as far as being a quality person with credentials that are out of this world.”

Halladay’s situation is a major issue not just in Philadelphia, but around all of baseball. The whispers that he is in serious decline, that the end could be near, are now shouts.

Even through his laser-like focus, Halladay hears them.

Dubee, too.

“I don’t think what’s out there is taxing to him,” Dubee said. “I think what’s taxing to him is this guy has tremendous pride and wants to be part of a winner. And he is. He’s probably the most accountable guy I’ve ever been around. And he feels very, very accountable that he has to go out there and pitch well for us to win. And that could be taxing at times, sure. I think it was taxing with Cliff [Lee] last year when he didn’t win for how long. Those things start to wear on you. But this is an accountable guy. I think the more he goes out there and relaxes and is tension-free the better he’ll be. He’s going to continue to get [support] from me.”

Lifeless Phillies should call up red-hot Roman Quinn ... why not?

Lifeless Phillies should call up red-hot Roman Quinn ... why not?

The Phillies are a lifeless team right now.

For a while the starting pitching was the biggest issue, then it was the bullpen, now it's the offense. The Phils have hit .224 since May 12, which was when their 2-7 road trip began. 

Their .268 on-base percentage over that span is worst in the majors and their .613 OPS is better than only the Mariners.

Players up and down the lineup are slumping. Odubel Herrera has hit .207 with a .246 OBP since the ninth game of the season. Michael Saunders hasn't given them much at any point. Maikel Franco had an eight-game hit streak snapped Monday, but even still is hitting .221 with a .281 on-base percentage. 

At this point, why not bring up Roman Quinn and play him every day? It makes too much sense right now.

Daniel Nava went on the 10-day DL Monday with a hamstring strain suffered Friday in Pittsburgh. It doesn't seem to be a serious injury, but why not use the open space as an excuse to bring Quinn up for at least a few days and see what he's got?

Quinn could infuse some energy and life to the top of a sputtering lineup. Bat him second, play him in the corner outfield and see what happens. At the very least, he'd be a defensive upgrade over Saunders. At the most, Quinn's hunger to stick in the majors could result in a hot streak that sparks the top of the order the way Herrera does when he's hot.

Quinn is hitting lately at Triple A, batting .333 with a .424 OBP over his last 15 games. He showed last September that he can be an offensive catalyst with his ability to beat out infield singles, bunt for hits and spray the ball. Yes, he strikes out too much for a leadoff-type hitter, but it's just hard to see the downside of a call-up right now.

The argument against bringing Quinn up now is that it's too early to sour on Saunders, a player the Phillies signed in hopes of trading at some point. But think about how much Saunders would have to do to have worthwhile trade value. Yeah, you could flip him somewhere for a negligible return or some salary relief, but he'd have to be extremely productive for at least a month to get a team interested in trading a minor-leaguer of any value for him.

Pete Mackanin has tried many things to spark the Phils' lineup, moving Herrera and Franco down, sitting guys, challenging guys. The best solution, perhaps the only solution right now, might be a move made over his head to promote the Phils' speedy, switch-hitting outfielder who has a future with them so long as he stays on the field, which he has this season.

As for Rhys Hoskins and Jorge Alfaro, who have also hit very well at Triple A, they just happen to play the same positions as Tommy Joseph and Cameron Rupp, who have been the Phillies' most reliable bats the last few weeks.

Phillies-Rockies 5 things: Phils turn to Zach Eflin to stop the bleeding

Phillies-Rockies 5 things: Phils turn to Zach Eflin to stop the bleeding

Phillies (15-27) vs. Rockies (29-17)
7:05 p.m. on CSN; streaming live on CSNPhilly.com and the NBC Sports App

The Phillies were supposed to take a step forward in 2017. Pete Mackanin went out on a limb when he said before the season that he thought they could be close to a .500 team, and so far they've fallen well short of that expectation.

At 15-27, the Phillies are on pace to go 58-104, an even worse record than 2015, the year of Aaron Harang, Jerome Williams, etc.

They hope to stop the profuse bleeding tonight against the Rockies, who can't lose on the road lately.

1. Franco and Saunders sit
Looking for some more offense, or just a different approach, Mackanin is sitting Maikel Franco and Michael Saunders tonight in favor of Andres Blanco and Ty Kelly (see lineup).

Franco has actually been hitting a bit more in May, picking up a hit in nine straight games before going 0 for 3 with two strikeouts Monday. Still, he's hitting just .221 with a .281 on-base percentage, and his .657 OPS is 27 percent below the league average.

Saunders just hasn't done much with the Phillies. He's hitting .227/.273/.383 with four homers and 15 RBIs, and he's struck out 35 times in 150 plate appearances. Two of those four homers came in games that were already decided.

It's a rare start for Blanco, just his fifth of the season. Coming mostly off the bench the last four seasons, he's been a consistent hitter for the Phillies, batting .270/.333/.449 with 43 doubles, four triples and 13 home runs in 559 plate appearances, essentially a full season's worth.

2. Eflin's turn
Mackanin's hope is that with Aaron Nola back from the DL, Jeremy Hellickson appearing to turn a corner and Zach Eflin giving the Phils some consistent innings, the starting rotation can get into a groove, thus helping out the bullpen and giving the Phillies a chance to win more close games the way they did in 2016.

Jerad Eickhoff was just OK last night, allowing four runs in six innings as he dropped to 0-5 with a 4.70 ERA. A quality start tonight from Eflin against a strong Rockies lineup would go a long way because the Phillies really need more than half of their rotation to be clicking right now.

Eflin was rocked his last start in Texas, allowing seven runs on 11 hits and two walks over four innings. It caused his ERA to rise from 2.81 to 4.25 and his WHIP from 1.00 to 1.25.

As is usually the case when Eflin doesn't pitch well, he just wasn't getting his sinker low enough in the zone. He had induced 40 groundballs over his previous three starts before picking up just eight against the Rangers. 

An interesting note on Eflin is that he's struck out just five of the 70 right-handed hitters he's faced compared to 13 of the 85 lefties he's seen. Righties have hit .323 off him with a .798 OPS compared to .250 with a .715 OPS from lefties.

Current Rockies are 3 for 16 off Eflin with just one extra-base hit. He faced Colorado last season at Coors Field and gave up just two runs over six innings.

3. An unlikely start
Unlike most seasons, the Rockies are pitching well and winning on the road. Colorado has gotten off to hot starts almost every year the last five, but it's usually fueled by an unsustainably hot offense. 

Hasn't been the case in 2017. The Rockies are middle of the pack with a 4.29 ERA, a half-run lower than the Phillies. And away from Coors Field, they have a 3.45 ERA, the second-lowest road ERA for any team behind the Diamondbacks.

The run has been credited to a young starting staff that has been missing projected No. 1 Jon Gray. We saw former first-round pick Jeff Hoffman dominate the Phillies last night (seven innings, three hits, one run, seven strikeouts) and tonight the Phils face 22-year-old German Marquez (2-2, 4.34).

One of the biggest difference-makers for the Rockies in 2017 has been closer Greg Holland, who signed a prove-it deal with Colorado coming off a major injury. He has 19 saves and a 0.96 ERA in 20 appearances and has earned himself a whole of money this winter.

4. The book on Marquez 
The Rockies acquired Marquez along with left-handed reliever Jake McGee in the January 2016 trade that sent Corey Dickerson to the Rays, where he's thrived.

Marquez made just a handful of appearances in the majors last season but has been solid for the Rockies in five starts so far this year. 

He throws pretty much all four-seam fastballs (65 percent) and curveballs (24 percent), with his heater averaging 95.1 mph. He'll also mix in a few changeups to lefties and cutters.

In two starts away from Coors Field, Marquez has allowed just one run in 11 innings with 11 strikeouts. He's kept the ball in the park in four of five starts.

5. This and that
• Good to see Aaron Altherr pick up two doubles last night. He was 6 for his previous 33.

• Tommy Joseph in May: .345/.418/.707, six doubles, five homers, 13 RBIs. 

• Since beginning the season on an eight-game hitting streak, Odubel Herrera has hit .207 with a .246 OBP, six walks and 35 strikeouts.

• Daniel Nava was placed on the 10-day DL with a hamstring strain suffered Friday in Pittsburgh. LHP Adam Morgan was recalled again from Triple A to take his place on the active roster.