For a year-and-a-half, Roy Halladay pitched in pain.
With his right shoulder not right, Halladay adjusted his arm slot in an attempt to continue to pitch and limit the pain. As the 2012 season and the first month of the 2013 showed, that adjustment didn't exactly work.
Halladay had surgery a day after his 36th birthday in May. Less than four months later, he continues to be a work in progress, as was evident in a strange 3-2 loss to the Nationals.
Halladay walked three of the first five batters he faced. He ended up walking five and hitting two others.
But he also retired 11 of 12 batters at one point and didn't allow a run in his final five innings.
“I was feeling sorry for him in the first couple of innings,” Washington manager Davey Johnson said. “Then I was hating him as he went along because he got better.”
Afterward, Halladay said he's re-adjusting to his old arm slot post surgery, and in doing so, struggling to keep his mechanics in line at times.
“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 explained of his early wildness. “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. ...
"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. Now, (my) 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.”
Halladay's goal is to perfect his mechanics, repeating his delivery every time, before the end of 2013. He should have four more starts this season.
But pitching coach Rich Dubee doesn't believe you'll see the final version of Roy Halladay 2.0 by then. And Halladay, who himself said he was in quasi-spring training mode in building up his arm post-surgery, would probably agree.
Dubee does, however, think Halladay, a free agent at the end of the season, will be worthy of a spot in the rotation in 2014.
"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."
Dubee, Halladay and manager Ryne Sandberg all expect the pitcher to take advantage of the upcoming offseason and continue to develop arm strength over the winter, too. Both Dubee and Sandberg gave Halladay credit for returning to the mound three months after surgery, ahead of a time most would have estimated.
"I hear people say why is this guy pitching and this and that," Dubee said of critics. "First all, you have a guy who’s under contract who thinks he has to earn his money, thinks he owes it to the organization and the fanbase. We’re in an industry where - how many guys are sitting on the disabled list that could possibly be playing, but aren’t? We’re in a society where how many people are collecting workman’s comp with bogus injuries? And we’re going to chastise a guy that’s doing it the right way and turn our heads to these other things? I think that’s kind of ass backwards."
Dubee undoubtedly believes in Roy Halladay.
"He’s gone at it since mid-May on an extrensive rehab from surgery to get to where he’s at right now," the pitching coach said. "When he’s done with this (year), he rests for a couple weeks and then he’ll get back into it. It’s like a second breath of fresh air. He’s going to get stronger, I think he’s going to add velocity, and he’s going to get better."