March 28, 2013; Clearwater, FL, USA; Philadelphia Phillies starting pitcher Roy Halladay (34) throws a pitch against the Toronto Blue Jays at Bright House Networks Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Phillies Nervously Anticipate First Official Start of the "New" Roy Halladay

Tonight’s start for Halladay is kind of a big deal. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

It’s a really good thing everyone had to wait 48 hours for the Phillies to play Games 1 and 2 here in 2013. It gives us lots of time not to panic over Roy Halladay‘s Wednesday night start against Atlanta.

Yeah, I’m not worried. What, you are? I mean, this is Roy freaking Halladay! This dude is a three-time 20-game winner, has 20 career shutouts, two Cy Young Awards, and has thrown over 2700 innings during his 15-year MLB career.

Halladay’s a Hall of Famer, and you can count on him in 2013.

Only, here’s the thing. You can’t. You really can’t.

There’s no sense in rehashing what has become of Halladay. We all know his fastball is slower than it ever has been, that he’s struggling to locate his cutter, that over the last year hitters have been squaring up his pitches on a regular basis, and that he’s trying to reinvent himself as a 36-year-old pitcher with lesser stuff.

Right now, the Phils are hoping he can be a #3-type starter for them.

And frankly, that might be asking a bit much right now.

Halladay takes the mound Wednesday against a Braves team that absolutely owned him last year, to the tune of an 11.21 ERA, with 30 hits, six homers, and 22 runs in 17 2/3 innings over four starts. So, needless to say, the opponent of this critical first start in 2013 will not be an easy one. However, Phils manager Charlie Manuel says he has faith that the man who just two years ago the unquestioned best starting pitcher in the game, can somehow regain a little of his lost mojo.

“I think he’s going to be OK,” Manuel said on Monday. “I think he’s going to be fine, and, of course, I’m hoping he’s going to be OK. I’m a little concerned about it, but I wouldn’t say I’m overly concerned because I think he’ll eventually get it going and have a big season.” – quotes per CSN Philly’s Jim Salisbury

After struggling against Blue Jay minor leaguers in his second-to-last start of the spring, Halladay seemed nowhere near ready to make his first start of the season against the Braves. And while he did pitch a bit better in his final spring outing, it was still a struggle for Halladay to locate his pitches and put hitters away. So, is he ready, Charlie?

“I think he’s ready to pitch and (pitching coach Rich) Dubee thinks he’s ready. Roy thinks he’s ready to pitch and the doctors think he’s ready. We’re going to see where he’s at. I don’t have a crystal ball. I can’t tell you how he’s going to do. If I could tell you, he’d throw a no-hitter and strike out 15.”

The reality is, if the Phillies are going to return to the postseason this year, it doesn’t seem possible that it can happen unless Roy Halladay is prominently involved somehow. In a positive way. Unless Roy can figure it out and somehow “find it,” the odds of the Phillies playing October baseball become very long indeed.

Unless you believe this is the year Kyle Kendrick makes his first NL All-Star team.

All concerned say Halladay is healthy, and that’s a good thing. But it’s also a bad thing, in a way.

If Roy was injured, at least there would be a reason for his struggles. There would be something to fix. But everyone says Halladay is fine, there are no problems with his arm, shoulder or back, and that he just has to learn to pitch with diminished stuff.

At the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter why Halladay isn’t the same pitcher he used to be. All that matters is that he is different. And he must adjust.

Tonight, he’ll get his first opportunity against a team that pounded a mistake-prone Cole Hamels in the season opener by destroying three home runs off the ace left-hander. The Atlanta lineup, while prone to strikeouts, is also filled with a ton of power.

It may be an unfair test for Halladay in his first start of the 2013 regular season. After losing 10 pounds to a stomach virus this spring, trying to find his stuff again, and dealing with last year’s lost season, it’ll be important for everyone not to panic and understand where Roy is at this stage of the season and his career.

Tonight is the first step towards finding out if Halladay is about to undergo a career renewal, or if it’s the beginning of the end.

Tags: Philadelphia Phillies Roy Halladay

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