Phillies Notes: Halladay will start Thursday in Clearwater

Phillies starting pitcher Roy Halladay. (Yong Kim/Staff Photographer)
Phillies starting pitcher Roy Halladay. (Yong Kim/Staff Photographer)
Posted: August 14, 2013

ATLANTA - Kevin Camiscioli, the Phillies' manager of video coaching services, handed Charlie Manuel a phone on Monday. The screen displayed Roy Halladay, throwing a bullpen session in Florida, which acted as his final barrier from competing in real games.

Everything went as planned. Halladay, months removed from shoulder surgery, is cleared to pitch.

He will start Thursday for the rookie-level Gulf Coast League Phillies in Clearwater. Because he will throw 75 to 80 pitches, the Phillies believe he could require just two minor-league rehab starts before a return to the majors.

"If he goes in a straight line, I don't see him going more than two before he comes and pitches for us," Ruben Amaro Jr. said. "But a lot of it depends on how he feels. If he feels good, we'll progress him."

The Phillies general manager then hedged and labeled such a timetable as an "outside chance." It is an aggressive plan, but Halladay has passed every test until this moment. He underwent shoulder surgery May 15.

Originally, the Phillies estimated a return sometime in September. The team and the righthander want as much evaluation time as possible before the season ends because the future is murky. Halladay is a free agent. Both sides have mutual interest in extending the relationship, although Halladay wants to pitch for a contending team and the Phillies have sunk loads of money into aging players.

Once Halladay pitches Thursday, he begins a 30-day clock on his rehab assignment. All indications are his return will happen quicker, perhaps as soon as Aug. 25 against Arizona at Citizens Bank Park if he remains on schedule.

Amaro said Halladay was clocked in the "mid- to upper 80s" during his simulated game in Florida last weekend. Halladay's fastball averaged 92 m.p.h. during his first two seasons with the Phillies. It dipped to 89.6 m.p.h. this season, according to PITCHf/x data.

"We'll find out how he feels when he pitches, how hard he throws," Amaro said. "For me, it's how he feels, how his mechanics are, how his arm speed is more than his velocity."

Halladay told Amaro he physically feels good. His game Thursday is at noon against Pittsburgh's Gulf Coast League team.

Debating Howard

Ryan Howard has not yet swung a bat in his recovery from knee surgery, but Amaro reported that the first baseman has lost "15 to 20 pounds" while exercising in Florida.

Still, there are lingering questions as to whether Howard will return at all in 2013.

"I have no idea when or if he'll be back this year, but he's doing well," Amaro said. "If he's 100 percent and has a chance to do baseball activities, there's a shot. But if he isn't there's no reason to bring him back this season."

Manuel said people tend to overlook the severity of the injury Howard suffered when he ruptured his Achilles tendon. He suggested the first baseman was one of those people.

"In some ways it would be good if he could come back," Manuel said. "In other ways, it might be better if he didn't."

Extra bases

Laynce Nix refused an assignment to triple-A Lehigh Valley and was released Monday. The Phillies designated him for assignment last week. They paid him $2.5 million for a .211 batting average and .601 OPS in 151 games. . . . Jonathan Pettibone (strained shoulder) will start Thursday for double-A Reading in a rehab outing. He will throw about 50 pitches. . . . Ethan Martin will make his third start Tuesday. The native of Athens, Ga., grew up a Braves fan.

Contact Matt Gelb at Follow on Twitter @magelb.

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