It was a valiant effort by a former ace whose best days are behind him.
On Wednesday night, Roy Halladay battled. He clawed and scratched. He pulled out every trick mirror, every arrow that has dulled with time, and fired it at the Washington Nationals. When he left, he had lasted six innings and had given up just one run, leading 2-1.
Eventually, the bullpen would cough up that lead and the offense would fail to capitalize on numerous late-inning scoring opportunities, sending the Phils to a 3-2 loss and a series loss at the hands of the Nats.
But beyond the one run and six innings, Halladay didn’t look very impressive. In the first inning, he gave up a hit and walked three batters, escaping the inning on a nifty double play having given up just one run. All told, Halladay gave up five walks and hit two batters, with a fastball that averaged in the mid-to-upper 80s and at times seemingly no idea where the ball was going once it left his hand.
And while he did seem to have a decent curveball and improved changeup last night, and at one point retired 11 of 12 hitters, Halladay’s performance was up-and-down. It was not an outing where you thought, “Wow, this guy is really getting it together.”
Shoulder surgery has, so far, not improved Halladay’s velocity, it has not improved his control, and he is still battling his mechanics.
In other words, Roy Halladay looks pretty much the same now as he did before the surgery.
Of course, Roy continues to think he can get back to being pretty close to what he used to be. He feels, it’s just a matter of time.
“The only thing that’s tough really is coming off surgery and everything else, you’re just so used to being able to repeat mechanically without thinking about it,” Halladay said. “Now, your arm is in a different spot. It’s more of a challenge than it was early on. It’s just a matter of getting used to that. That’s the part I need to be patient with.” – quotes per Philadelphia Inquirer’s Matt Gelb
Halladay has never been a great first inning pitcher, sporting a career ERA of 4.15 in the opening frame. He does not have a career ERA above 3.87 in any other inning, so early wildness isn’t necessarily a new issue. As for last night’s first inning…
“I think it was a combination of being a little bit rusty – it’s like spring training in that I’m dealing with different mechanics than before, a different arm slot,” Halladay said. “I feel like it took me a little bit to find the right balance of everything. It’s been a little bit of a battle. …Those first couple of innings I was just a little inconsistent with my mechanics, but once I made a few pitches and feel where I needed to be I could repeat it more often.”
And don’t tell pitching coach Rich Dubee that Halladay won’t come all the way back. He ain’t hearin’ none of it.
“Do I think he’ll be an effective pitcher? Absolutely,” Dubee said before Wednesday’s game. “Will he pitch up to Roy Halladay standards? I don’t that they’ll get that high, but I think he’ll be a very effective pitcher. I think he could pitch in a lot of rotations next year. “There are going to be peaks and valleys through the rest of this year. To see him staying healthy and feeling good is a big, big plus. He’s able to go out their pain free, for the first time in a year and a half.”
Halladay will undoubtedly continue to start every fifth day during the last month of the season and then continue his rehab in the off-season, hoping that someone will sign him to a free agent contract. The Phils certainly could be one of the teams interested in bringing him back. Given his performance since his return, however, Halladay will likely only get a one-year deal from someone at the most. And he may only get a spring training invite.
However, some were encouraged by Halladay’s performance last night…
Real weird to watch Roy Halladay pitch well again. Thought for sure he’d been killed.
— Giancarlo Baumann (@MJ_Baumann) September 5, 2013
Walks not a problem right now. They’re result of Halladay finding his spots. But what he really found tonight was an effective change up.
— Catztradamus (@joecatz) September 5, 2013
I suppose it’s good that some are taking the optimistic view. It’s certainly possible that Halladay, at 37 and coming off shoulder surgery, will become a reliable Major League pitcher once again.
But even though he gave up just the one run on Wednesday night, I still didn’t see a pitcher who could be effective on a regular basis. I certainly didn’t see one I’d be comfortable giving a free agent contract to, or one for whom I would guarantee a rotation spot.
Roy Halladay still has a long way to go.
The odds are long he’ll ever get there.
But we hope.