Big Thursday for Doc
He pitches against the Blue Jays at Bright House Field. In seasons past, his final Grapefruit League start would be nondescript and uneventful. He would fine tune a few things and taper down before he pitched Opening Day. But tomorrow’s start is much different. It carries significance. Halladay has had issues in each of his previous four starts, and despite the Phillies keeping a stiff upper lip publicly that everything is well, privately they would like to see him pitch effectively just like everybody else.
Should you be concerned about Halladay? Yes, you should.
Halladay did not pitch well last year. He was injured. He labored at times. He simply didn’t resemble the pitcher that dominated the National League in 2010-11. But he said he came into camp feeling great. He said a new training program had him on the way back. But after he looked fine in his first two Grapefruit League starts there have been issues. His velocity dropped from 89-91 in those first two starts to 86-88 in his third start. He mentioned “dead arm,” which is not uncommon for pitchers. In his fourth start, he got shellacked in 2 2/3 innings. Some guns had him 85-87. He said he felt lethargic because he threw an extra bullpen session in between starts and because the more intense workout program had caught up to him. He had a stomach virus in his fourth start, which caused him to last just one inning and drop eight to 10 pounds. And then in his fifth start Saturday in a Minor League game at Carpenter Complex, where 11 of 18 Triple-A hitters reached base, he said he threw more hard stuff than he normally would. He also said he was tweaking his cutter grip, which is an important pitch for him, and could not crank up his fastball because of a wet mound.
(His velocity bumped up to 88-90, although he hit just 90 once.)
Each of Halladay’s explanations over those four starts are completely plausible. But they also are concerning because they are coming from a potential Hall of Famer that turns 36 in May and has thrown 2,687 1/3 inning in his big-league career. Should a healthy Halladay be having so many issues? Can we take anybody at their word after everybody said everything was fine last year, when he was having back problems in camp?
Everybody will breathe a little easier if Halladay looks good tomorrow. But if he doesn’t, if the Blue Jays batter balls around the field, there will some serious concern entering Wednesday’s start in Atlanta against the Braves.