Phillies' Roy Halladay shows signs of returning to form

Roy Halladay said his mission Friday was to work on his curveball and cutter. In 21/3 innings, Halladay allowed a run on three hits.
Roy Halladay said his mission Friday was to work on his curveball and cutter. In 21/3 innings, Halladay allowed a run on three hits. (AP)
Posted: March 02, 2013

TAMPA, Fla. - If there was some sore body part requiring immediate attention after 44 pitches Friday, Roy Halladay could have made his conversation with Yankees legend Reggie Jackson brief. Instead, the two spoke for quite a while.

"We talked cars," Halladay said.

Halladay was erratic in his second Grapefruit League outing. It probably means as little as his encouraging first spring start. But everything Halladay's prized arm does this spring is magnified.

The 35-year-old pitcher and his handlers are brushing that notion aside.

"I feel good," Halladay said. "Now, it's a matter of regular spring training."

No one knows how regular it can be. It is impossible to decipher spring results. Charlie Manuel and Rich Dubee supplemented Halladay's positivity with some of their own after a 10-5 victory over the New York Yankees.

Halladay said his mission Friday was to play around with his curveball and cutter. He had barely thrown his curve before this start. His cutter is something that always takes time to master.

In 21/3 innings, Halladay allowed a run on three hits. He struck out three, walked one, and uncorked a wild pitch.

"He's fine," said Dubee, the pitching coach. "He's doing fine. He's on track. He has four innings under his belt."

"He's definitely getting there," said Manuel, the manager. "He says he feels good. That's good enough."

Is it, even when Halladay proclaimed the same last spring when not feeling right?

"I believe him," Manuel said.

Halladay did not have the chance to finish three innings like his rotation mate, Cole Hamels, did a day earlier. With one out in the third, Yankees catcher Francisco Cervelli lashed a double to right. Dubee came with the hook.

Halladay threw 44 pitches and 26 of them were strikes. He tended to miss high and away. Dubee said Halladay's sinker has been "real good" so the focus was on the curveball and cutter.

Two scouts said Halladay's fastball was steadily between 88 m.p.h. and 91 m.p.h. Friday. That is similar to his first start, and better than this point last spring.

The first inning moved at a glacial pace. Within the span of six pitches, catcher Steven Lerud twice visited the mound at Halladay's request. Lerud, who spent last September in the majors, had never caught Halladay.

That complicated Halladay's plan for specific work.

"I had to change signs a little bit," Halladay said. "It was a matter of getting comfortable with each other. I use a lot of different signs. At times it can be a little tough."

In the first, no ball ever left the infield. Cervelli reached on an infield single, Kevin Youkilis walked, and Juan Rivera singled off Jimmy Rollins' glove. It required 24 Halladay pitches to record three outs.

The second inning was quicker, albeit with three Yankees minor-leaguers hitting. They helped Halladay with some poor swings.

What encouraged Halladay the most was how his body responded to lengthy breaks between pitches. The Phillies enjoyed early offensive success aided by numerous Yankees miscues.

Halladay's back and shoulder tightened when he was seated for too long last season.

"Before, those were the innings that would kill me," Halladay said. "I feel good right now, physically and conditioning-wise. Really, I think that is ahead of everything else. It's a matter of fine-tuning pitches."

The closer to April, the better the read on Halladay will be. The calendar turned to March on Friday without Halladay displaying any obvious signs of distress.

"He got his work in," Manuel said. That represents a typical spring for any other pitcher. Given Halladay's stature and importance to these Phillies, every action is vital.


Contact Matt Gelb at mgelb@phillynews.com or follow on Twitter @magelb.

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