New version of Phillies' Roy Halladay

Posted: April 01, 2013

OF THE THREE players who reported to Clearwater as the Phillies' biggest question marks, mysteries or X-factors, only one is departing camp with the same uncertainty: Roy Halladay.

The Phillies have a pretty good idea what they have in Ryan Howard and Chase Utley after their healthy Grapefruit League campaigns.

In the final weekend of exhibition games in Florida, the middle-of-the-lineup duo hit back-to-back homers on consecutive days. They've played regularly, too.

But Halladay? Spring training revealed little, other than the likelihood that the two-time Cy Young Award winner is no longer the pitcher he was in 2010 and 2011.

What we know: Halladay missed nearly 2 months last summer with a shoulder ailment. He reported to spring feeling healthy, strong and confident. His results this spring were a mixed bag, with a thud of an ending that included getting thumped by major and minor league lineups alike and dropping 10 pounds because of an illness, too.

What we don't know: If Halladay is healthy, as everyone in the organization insists, can he be a top-of-the-rotation pitcher with diminished stuff? Can he be effective with decreased velocity?

Halladay hit 90 mph in his first and next-to-last start of the spring, but he more regularly hovered in the 85-88 range. While it's important to note that he's never been a power pitcher - according to fangraphs.com, Halladay's average fastball has never been higher than 92.7 in any season - just a few clicks lower on the radar gun can make a world of difference.

"It's not a boxing match, it's not a strength vs. strength," Halladay said of pitching. "It's a chess match. It's competition of the mind and execution and being smarter and being more prepared . . . It's not about the strength and throwing harder and overpowering guys. It's about outsmarting and being more prepared and being more consistent."

During the same answer, Halladay brought up Jamie Moyer as an example of a wily veteran who could be effective on guts and guile. Interestingly, Moyer was the No. 3 starter in the rotation with which the Phillies won the World Series in 2008.

If Halladay is a serviceable No. 3, it might not be what people want to see, but it might be good enough for the Phils to contend. Perhaps the final 2 months of the 2012 season are an indicator of what Halladay can be in 2013: 7-2 with a 4.70 ERA in 11 starts, including four starts in which he allowed two or fewer runs and five starts when he allowed four or more runs.

Not exactly consistent, but the Phillies did win eight of those 11 games.

But that's nothing more than guesswork, which is really all you're left with following spring training. The Phils won't have a better reading on where Halladay is or what he can be until he's throwing all of his pitches in a game that matters with scouting reports and the competitiveness that goes with a regular-season start, when results count.

When Halladay began his Phillies career three springs ago, he was as good as advertised and arguably the best pitcher in baseball. He's no longer that version of Roy Halladay.

But whether his right arm has nothing left, or if it's simply evolving into something different, won't be known until Halladay crosses the white lines for his first real test in 2013.

"You're always changing and trying to evolve, not only evolving with the game but you have to evolve with your body," Halladay said. "The changeup for me was big for me when I came over here. If I hadn't come up with that, I would have been in a lot of trouble a long time ago. To be able to have that, have soft stuff I can go to, it's continually adjusting.

"Guys get used to you. You have to do things different. But your body changes also, and you have to adjust to that."

With the incentives of his vesting option out of reach, Halladay is entering the final year of his contract with the Phillies. If Halladay's tenure with the team ends with the 2013 season, he will have to adapt and adjust if he has any hopes of leaving Philly as celebrated as he was when he arrived.


" @ryanlawrence21

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