Reality was difficult to dodge in 2012. In early December, as he always does, Halladay accompanied close friend Chris Carpenter on a fishing trip. Carpenter, having reached the limitations of his body, may never throw another pitch again. Halladay's future is less bleak, for now.
It was a chance for introspection.
"We talked a lot about doing things the right way and having no regrets," Halladay said. "I know he has none, and I have none. Hopefully, I'm not sitting here any time soon saying I'm done playing. You never want to look back and wish you had done something different."
So Halladay said he has changed it all to survive. His rigorous routine, the stuff of spring legends, is totally different from the time he arrives daily at Bright House Field at the crack of dawn. His throwing is altered. His conditioning program is new. His outlook sounded sensible.
"There will be a day when what's ahead of me is not baseball, and I'm going to try to embrace that," Halladay said. "Until you get to that point, you do everything you can to continue to adjust."
Halladay claimed he did not reveal the back injury because he did not know exactly what the cause was.
He spent six weeks on the disabled list with a strained muscle in the rear of his shoulder. Usually, that is a problematic area for pitchers. The Phillies maintained no structural problems were found in multiple examinations of Halladay's shoulder. The back injury lends credence to that claim.
Doubt is natural. For months, Halladay hid his ailments despite signs suggesting distress. Few, if any, outside the organization have seen Halladay throw since he adopted his new program. The real proof is yet to come.
"There is no such thing as a crystal ball," Halladay said. "But I'm confident that if I can maintain the way I feel right now that I'm going to be effective."
The two-time Cy Young Award winner reiterated his desire to finish his career with the Phillies. Halladay will be a free agent at season's end. He has not opened a dialogue with the Phillies about a contract extension, nor does he expect to.
The Phillies, likewise, will want to see if electricity still flows from Halladay's right arm before committing millions to it.
"I'm playing to win a World Series," he said. "If I had my druthers, I would be here until I am done."
If he regains his ace form, the Phillies are likely to share those feelings. Arguably, no player is more important to the 2013 Phillies. His 2.40 ERA from 2010 to 2011 was the lowest in baseball (minimum 300 innings). He totaled 16.8 in wins above replacement (WAR) during that span, according to Baseball-Reference.com, more than any pitcher in baseball. Last season, he stumbled to a 4.49 ERA and a 0.7 WAR.
Whatever metric is used, none can measure the strain of 39,431 regular-season pitches by Halladay. He is not the first, nor will he be the last, to stare down baseball mortality.
Roy Halladay pitched 1561/3 innings last season, his lowest total since 2005.
His ERA of 4.49 was his highest since 2000, when it ballooned to 10.64.
Halladay has pitched 66 complete games in his career. He had none last season for the first time since 2000.
Since 2002, only Mark Buehrle (2,4061/3) and CC Sabathia (2,384) have thrown more innings than Halladay (2,351).
Contact Matt Gelb at email@example.com, or follow on Twitter @magelb.