If you looked at the box score, you might be concerned about Roy Halladay.
Of the 18 batters he faced in a minor league game in Clearwater on Saturday, he retired just seven. He gave up two sharply hit doubles in four innings, walked two more and hit a batter.
Three runs crossed the plate.
If you looked at the results up close and in person, you might be concerned, too. In his first start since losing nearly 10 pounds with a stomach illness, and two starts since getting shellacked by the Detroit Tigers, Halladay couldn’t put hitters away.
He had more than a handful of two-strike counts that turned into lengthy at-bats with Toronto Blue Jays minor league hitters fouling off his pitches time and time again. By one man’s count, he got one swing-and-miss in four innings.
But afterward, Halladay said he was pleased with his outing – particularly from a strength and stamina standpoint – and he vowed that he’ll be ready to take the ball on April 3 in Atlanta, following one more spring training tuneup.
Here’s some of what Halladay had to say on Saturday:
Q: How did you feel physically after a long layoff, feeling fatigued two starts ago and then sick last week?
Halladay: “I felt good. I was trying to talk him into letting me throw a few more. Arm-wise I felt really good. I think more than anything it took a toll on consistency, really in my lower half. My arm slot felt good. I felt like my landing spot was varying a little bit from time to time, but other than that I felt good. I felt like my arm was consistently in the same spot. We tried to throw a lot of sinkers and a lot of cutters today, we threw some better cutters. We tried a couple of different things with the cutters and I felt like toward the end we really narrowed down what I want to do with it.
“But I felt strong. I was surprised. I thought I was going to be a little wobbly leg-wise and stuff. But I felt good. I felt like I could have easily threw a 100-plus pitches. So from that standpoint, I’m pretty happy. Arm felt great, no soreness, I don’t think I’m going to feel sore tomorrow. And I felt like my stamina was there. Just working on the consistency on my lower half in the next bullpen and go from there. But I was glad that, you know, it didn’t set me back like I thought it was going to as far as physically. I felt strong and felt like the stamina was there.
Q: You have just one more start down here (Thursday). You’re going to be ready to go and effective on April 3?
Halladay: “Yeah, I think so. Really the only thing I feel like we’re trying to narrow down s the cutter. We tried to stay away from curve balls and changeups today, we threw a few, but really tried to stay away from that and throw as many cutters and sinkers as possible. I thought the sinkers were good. The cutter, like I said, we talked about doing a couple of different things and trying a couple different things, and I felt like toward the end, I felt like at least I felt a grip that was more comfortable and a release point that was more comfortable. So, it’s nice to have that to work off of. And I think going into the last start will be more like a regular start, where you’re trying to mix pitches like you normally would during a game.
“I think being able to figure out that cutter grip today, I can work on that in my bullpen more, and then my next time out, I feel like we can go out and pitch like I would pitch during a game. Like I said, we were talking about 70-75 pitches, but I felt great at 81 and felt like I could have gone more. I’m hoping maybe we can extend that last one, maybe get 95 or a little more pitches. I think, really, my arm felt a lot better today than before I was sick. I don’t know if that’s from a shortened start and some time off, but my arm felt like it was a lot easier to get in same spot consistently.”
Q: So you’re not concerned at all with getting results out there today? They seemed to hit you pretty good.
Halladay: “For me, my goals today were to feel good, to feel storng all the way through, to feel like my arm slot was repeating. I felt like that was ther.e The one things I would like more consistent was my landing spot, I felt like that at times was a little bit erratic. But I think going in with the plan that we had, trying to go in hard as hard as we could, as hard as much as we could, against a minor league team probably isn’t the best plan (for results). But that’s kind of what we needed to do. It’s going to be something that’s going to be something that’s going to be important for me in the season, to be able to go hard in soft counts. It’s something we had to work on. If I’m going out there and trying to pitch to win, I’m going to throw as much soft as I can, but that wasn’t the goal today.”
Q: You’re a tough-minded guy. Is not throwing as hard anymore (Halladay was in 87-89 MPH range on Saturday) tough on you?
Halladay: “No, to me it’s a competition. It’s not a boxing match. It’s not a strength vs. strength (thing). It’s a chess match. It’s a competition of the mind: execution and being smarter and being more prepared. To me that’s what I’ve enjoyed. That’s what I like about baseball. You look at a Jamie Moyer. He could compete with the best of them. He would have got knocked out in the first round if he was a boxer, so, it’s just a different mentality. It’s not about the strength and throwing harder, and overpowering guys. It’s about outsmarting and being more prepared and more consistent. To me, that’s the challenge.”