Roy Halladay is Back – and Better Than Ever?


Roy Halladay made a surprise return to the Phillies today. Image Credit: Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

When I went to sleep last night, I didn’t expect Roy Halladay to be starting today’s game.  He was scheduled to make a rehab start in the minor leagues, but as that book we were forced to read in high school says, “The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.”

The Phillies suffered from an unfortunate combination of events last night: Their starter got knocked out of the game in the first inning, and the game lasted 18 innings.  If you’re doing math at home, that meant that they needed 17 innings of relief pitching, and had to eventually use today’s scheduled starter (Tyler Cloyd) for five innings.

When faced with this type of situation, a team will usually call up a minor league pitcher who is scheduled to start that day.  Unfortunately, Raul Valdes was scheduled to pitch for Lehigh Valley, and due to him being sent down less than ten days ago, he was ineligible to be recalled except in case of an injury.  Instead of creating a phantom injury for Zach Miner or one of the Phillies other relievers, the team thought that the best option was to have Halladay make his scheduled rehab start for the major league team.

Part of me is all, “Hooray, Roy Halladay is back!  Good times are ahead!”  Then the logical part of my brain takes over and says, “Maybe there’s not that much upside here.”

The best case scenario is that he pitches well and looks like the Roy Halladay of 2011.  Unfortunately, with his impending free agency, this may only make it more expensive for the Phillies to retain his services.  The worst case is that he looks as bad as he did in April, or that he tries to go too hard and re-injures himself.

The last two seasons, Ryan Howard attempted a similar “major league rehab” and his inevitable struggles not only hurt the team, but might have contributed to his continued injury issues.

So how did things turn out?

Halladay got off to a slow start, giving up a triple to the leadoff hitter, and eventually allowing that runner to score.  That wasn’t a great omen, but keep in mind that even in his best days, Halladay would often have shaky first innings.

The good news is that he improved as the game went on.  He gave up another run in the second inning, but after that, he held the Diamondbacks scoreless.  His velocity was touching 91 MPH, and his control seemed to be good.  Some of the pitches that were called balls might have been strikes with a different umpire.  (Halladay exchanged some words with home plate umpire Marty Foster at one point).  He got into some trouble in the sixth inning, but worked his way out of a jam to complete his work for the day.  His final line: 6 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 2 BB, 2K.

Aug 25, 2013; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia Phillies center fielder Roger Bernadina (3) makes a catch at the wall during the third inning against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Citizens Bank Park. Mandatory Credit: Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

His teammates seemed determined to help him out.  Roger Bernadina saved two runs when he made a leaping catch at the wall.  (He also made another outstanding catch later in the game.)  The offense also showed up, scoring nine runs, which resulted in a fairly easy victory. (Despite J.C. Ramirez’s best effort)

It was far from a vintage Halladay performance, but it was a solid outing.  Before the season, I was optimistic about the Phillies, mostly because I expected that Halladay would be able to pitch like a good #3 starter.  I envisioned outings like this one.  Obviously that didn’t happen, and more than anything, I think that was the reason the Phillies have been so disappointing in 2013

We’ll see where he goes from here.  Theoretically, his velocity and command should improve with each “rehab” start, but there are no guarantees.  And opponents will likely be watching footage of this game, trying to see what the “new” Halladay’s repertoire looks like.  The Diamondbacks might have been surprised by Halladay, but future opponents likely won’t be.

But that is a concern for the future.  Today we got to watch Roy Halladay lead the Phillies to victory and it felt good.