Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Fool me once, shame on you.
For the second straight spring training, Philadelphia Phillies pitcher Roy Halladay has shown a dip in velocity and some overall sharpness that has won the 35-year-old a pair of Cy Young Awards during his career.
Last spring, Halladay posted a 5.73 ERA over six starts heading into the regular season. The right-hander and pitching coach Rich Dubee both insisted that Halladay was healthy and it was tough not to take their word for it. After all, numbers don't mean much in February and March, when most players are just trying to shake the offseason rust and get into game form.
Just two seasons removed from winning the NL Cy Young and coming off a 19-win campaign, Halladay began the 2012 regular season with three straight wins and had a 1.95 ERA after five starts in April. However, he opened May with a no- decision in Atlanta in which he lasted just 5 1/3 innings and gave up eight runs, and in six starts that month Halladay went 1-3 with a 6.11 ERA.
On May 29, Halladay was placed on the disabled list due to a right latissimus dorsi strain and it was later admitted that the ace had been dealing with health issues since camp. The righty ended up making just 25 starts, his fewest since a 19-game campaign with the Toronto Blue Jays in 2005, and his 4.49 ERA was one of the worst of his career.
Fast forward to 2013 and Halladay has again shown reason for concern. On Tuesday versus the Detroit Tigers, he lasted just 2 2/3 innings and was charged with seven runs on six hits and four walks. He also hit a batter, served up two homers and struck out just two after having allowed just two earned runs and six hits total in his previous three starts of the spring.
Again, a rough outing in March usually doesn't sound the alarm, but Halladay reportedly once again had a drop in velocity, with a story on Phillies.com citing a scout as saying his fastball sat around 86-88 mph.
Halladay, as expected, was bombarded with questions about his outing and he mirrored last season by insisting he was healthy. Instead, he said he felt lethargic before the start and that the workload of the spring was simply catching up. He noted he threw two bullpen sessions in between starts and felt that caught up with him.
"The results aren't satisfying, that's obvious," he said after Tuesday's outing. "But I think the work we've done, there's been a lot of progress made. Unfortunately, it got to the point where we've done so much throwing that I really kind of just felt lethargic.
"The good part is there's no soreness, nothing hurts. ... Like last spring training, you come in and there's times when you're hurting and things are sore. I'll trade being lethargic any day of the week over coming in and hurting. It's a big difference."
Despite his career-long success, 2013 could be the crossroad of Halladay's career. He has an option for next season and another step back this year for the Phillies, who went from a club-record 102 wins to just 81 in 2012, could lead to Philadelphia parting ways with Halladay to begin anew.
But with a rotation that includes Cole Hamels and Cliff Lee in addition to Halladay, as well as an offense led by the hopefully healthy Ryan Howard and Chase Utley, the Phillies can still make some noise this season. They will need all hands on deck and that includes a vintage Halladay.
But at 35, that may not be possible and the Phillies already appear to be looking toward the future. Halladay's string of 10 straight Opening Day starts, including the last three with Philadelphia, is slated to end when Hamels, and not Halladay, makes the start in the opener on April 1 in Atlanta.
It will be Hamels who takes the first step for the Phils in their quest to return to the playoffs after missing out on the postseason for the first time in six years last year. But that journey also will depend on Halladay's health and the franchise can't afford for Halladay to try to gut things out again early on if he is in fact hurt.
"I'm happy with where we are strength-wise, where I am physically," he noted on Tuesday.
Excuse Phillies fans if they don't accept that at 100 percent.