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.”

Today's Lineup: Daniel Nava, Brock Stassi, Andrew Knapp all get starts

Today's Lineup: Daniel Nava, Brock Stassi, Andrew Knapp all get starts

Just mere hours after topping the Braves in dramatic fashion in the 10th inning, the Phillies will have a much different lineup take the field Sunday afternoon as they look for the sweep of Atlanta (see Sunday's game notes).

Daniel Nava, Brock Stassi and Andrew Knapp will all start Sunday's series finale.

Nava will bat fifth start in left field for the ailing Howie Kendrick, who's missed the last week with an oblique issue. Nava's sample size at the plate so far this season is small, but he's still 8 for 21 (.381 batting average) with two homers, two doubles and 7 RBI. So it makes sense that manager Pete Mackanin wants to get Nava some more at-bats.

Stassi bats sixth and gets the nod at first in place of Tommy Joseph, who had that odd sequence of events late in Saturday's win. First, Joseph had an ugly at-bat with the game tied in the ninth inning. Then in the top of the 10th, he caught a popped-up bunt and suddenly made an ill-advised throw to an empty third base, helping the Braves plate the go-ahead run. So today could be a day just to clear Joseph's head.

Both Nava and Stassi are left-handed bats against Braves righty starter Mike Foltynewicz.

Knapp will give Cameron Rupp the day-game-after-night-game breather behind the plate Sunday.

One note on Atlanta's lineup: Brandon Phillips, who drilled the game-tying homer off Edubray Ramos in the top of the ninth on Saturday, has been moved up to the second spot in the order for Sunday's finale.

Both teams' lineups can be found below:

Phillies
1. Cesar Hernandez 2B
2. Aaron Altherr RF
3. Odubel Herrera CF
4. Maikel Franco 3B
5. Daniel Nava LF
6. Brock Stassi 1B
7. Freddy Galvis SS
8. Andrew Knapp C
9. Zach Eflin SP

Braves
1. Ender Inciarte CF
2. Brandon Phillips 2B
3. Freddie Freeman 1B
4. Matt Kemp LF
5. Nick Markakis RF
6. Kurt Suzuki C
7. Jace Peterson 3B
8. Dansby Swanson SS
9. Mike Foltynewicz SP

Phillies-Braves 5 things: Phils aim for first sweep of the season

Phillies-Braves 5 things: Phils aim for first sweep of the season

Phillies (8-9) vs. Braves (6-11)
1:35 p.m. on CSN; streaming live on CSNPhilly.com and the NBC Sports App

The Phillies and Braves played quite the game Saturday night. 

The teams went back and forth in the final two innings, culminating in Maikel Franco's walk-off single. What do they have in store for Sunday? Zach Eflin will take the hill for the Phillies opposite Mike Foltynewicz, a matchup of developing right-handers in their 20s.

Here are five things to know for Sunday's game.

1. Eflin back to form
Promoted to the majors at the beginning of the week, Eflin looked back to form in his first MLB start of 2017.

Eflin had the unfortunate problem of needing to rehab two knee surgeries this offseason, but clearly has not lost much in terms of his stuff. He looked a lot like the Eflin who produced five quality starts in a stretch of six appearances last summer, not the one who gave up 20 runs in his last 13 innings.

While he threw just five innings against the Mets, he limited New York to just two runs while working around six baserunners. Both runs came in the first inning and he retired 13 of his last 15 batters faced. 

The 23-year-old righty lives off his low-90s fastball and sinker while mixing in a slider and curveball. He was sinker heavy in his first start of 2017 and it was effective at Citi Field.

One of his best starts last season came against the Braves at Citizens Bank Park. Eflin needed just 92 pitches to throw a six-hit complete game with just one earned run allowed, a solo homer by Ender Inciarte. He didn't walk any Braves batters and struck out six in a quick game (2:08 in duration). Atlanta slugger Freddie Freeman went 0 for 3 with a strikeout and no batter got more than one hit.

2. Foltynewicz vs. the Phils
Foltynewicz hasn't had an ideal start to the season. His first start came in inclement weather vs. the Pirates, then he had to come out of the bullpen with a series of off days, which allowed the Braves to skip their fifth starter.

His most recent appearance came back in the rotation on Tuesday and he held his own against the Nationals, who were without a few key veterans but still had Max Scherzer on the hill. Foltynewicz held the Nats the just two runs over seven innings, scattering nine baserunners while striking out three batters. He walked four batters and has a paltry 8/7 K-BB ratio this year. 

In his three seasons with the Braves, the 25-year-old righty has a sub-optimal 4.85 ERA over 222 2/3 innings. However, his ERA got much better from 2015 to 16 (5.71 to 4.31) and his 4.26 ERA thus far in 2017 isn't half bad. 

Foltynewicz lives off his mid-90s fastball that has touched 97 this season. He mixes in a slider that draws a lot of groundballs, a sinker and a changeup. His velocity is down a little this season, which could explain his poor strikeout rate.

Folynewicz is 2-1 in four appearances against the Phillies in his career but has a 6.00 ERA, allowing five homers and 12 runs in 18 innings. Franco and Tommy Joseph each have one of those home runs while Odubel Herrera has three hits off the right-hander.

3. Ryan Howard: Braves minor leaguer
Believe it or not, Ryan Howard could be playing for another NL East team this year. The former Phillies slugger made his debut Saturday night for the Gwinnett Braves, Atlanta's Triple-A affiliate. 

Howard had himself quite a night, going 2 for 2 with two singles, an RBI, a hit-by-pitch and a walk, which was intentional. For someone signed so recently to a minor-league pact, it was an encouraging showing, although it's unlikely he'll be called up anytime soon.

There are two major obstacles to Howard making it back to the show with the Braves. The first is Freddie Freeman. With Freeman, the Braves already have a lefty slugger at first base for the foreseeable future. The other issue is Howard isn't on the Braves' 40-man roster. Atlanta has little incentive to add Howard to its 40-man because they're in full rebuild mode and need to prioritize their prospects.

Still, there may be something left in the tank for Howard. He still hit 20 home runs last season and was quite effective in the second half, particularly as a platoon bat. Even if the Braves ultimately don't need Howard, his opportunity in Gwinnett is a chance to audition for other teams as well. Veterans on minor-league deals often have opt-outs or could be granted their release if another team shows interest. 

If you're curious, Howard doesn't play Lehigh Valley, the Phillies' Triple-A affiliate, until July 17-19 and doesn't play in Lehigh Valley until a week later.

4. Players to watch
Phillies: Freddy Galvis struck out twice on Saturday, but he also extended his hitting streak to six games with a double. It was just his second extra-base hit since April 7.

Braves: Freddie Freeman has raised his average to .400 on the season. His .400/.507/.850 batting line won't last, but he looks to have brought his game to another level this year.

5. This and that
• The Phillies are on a three-game winning streak, including two straight over the Braves. Despite finishing ahead of Atlanta in the standings in 2016, the Phillies lost their last seven games vs. the Braves last season.

• The Phils have won two extra-inning games in the last five days. They haven't done that since April 17 and 20 of last season.

• Aaron Altherr has a six-game hitting streak going and has raised his average to .379. He has doubled in consecutive games and has two hits in three straight games. For good measure, he's added stolen bases in two of Phillies' last three games.