What we're watching today: Halladay, Gillies, Bastardo, Diekman

Phillies relief pitcher Antonio Bastardo. (Yong Kim/Staff Photographer)

Well, it's the moment we've all been waiting for. Roy Halladay is scheduled to make his Grapefruit League debut here at Joker Marchant Stadium in Lakeland, Fla., home of Ray Lewis, Freddie Mitchell, and many of the on-location shots from Edward Scissorhands. The last time Halladay faced hitters from another team was Sept. 29, when he finished gutting out a regular season in which he was plagued by what he later revealed to be lower back issues that led to a strained lat. Halladay allowed 19 earned runs in 19 innings over his last four starts, including four runs in five innings in a 9-5 win over the Marlins in Miami in his season finale. 

Halladay could very well be the player who decides the Phillies fate in 2013. If he is healthy and effective the way he was in 2010 and 2011, the Phillies will be starting a Cy Young caliber pitcher three out of every five days. Along with a bullpen that features set-up man Mike Adams and closer Jonathan Papelbon, the Phillies' pitching would be enough to win them a lot of games, provided everybody stays healthy and the defense does not boot the ball all over the playing surface (like it did yesterday). 

Halladay will square off against Justin Verlander, who finished second in the AL Cy Young voting last year after logging 238.1 innings and posting a 2.64 ERA with sparkling rate stats: 9.0 K/9, 2.3 BB/9, 0.7 HR/9. 

Some things to watch today:

1) Tyson Gillies is starting in center field. The 24-year-old is coming off a season in which he hit .299/.369/.440 with 24 steals at Double-A Reading. But he once again battled injuries, playing in just 75 games after totaling 31 in 2010 in 2011. When the Phillies acquired him as part of the Cliff Lee deal in 2009, they hoped that he would at least be providing them with valuable organizational depth in center field by this point. This spring he's looking to prove that his hamstring problems are behind him and that he can be relied on if injuries strike.

2) Darin Ruf is serving as designated hitter today. He misplayed a ball in left field yesterday in the Phillies Grapefruit League debut against the Astros. Ruf's bat is going to dictate whether he earns a spot on the Opening Day roster, but the Phillies want to get him plenty of reps in the field this spring. That being said, it's a long exhibition schedule this year and they want to get their eyes on some of the young players that will be heading back to minor league camp once that starts. Zach Collier is in left field today. 

3) Antonio Bastardo and Jake Diekman are both scheduled to pitch today. Beyond Halladay, Bastardo might be the biggest pitching wild card for the upcoming season. Diekman's job this spring is to give the Phillies confidence that he can consistently throw strikes. 

4) The Tigers are running out a lineup that looks a lot like the one their fans will see on Opening Day. I would say it is strong, to quite strong. Almost forgot that the defending AL champs were adding Victor Martinez and Torii Hunter to a lineup that already included Prince Fielder, Miguel Cabrera and Austin Jackson. 

The lineups:



  1. Jimmy Rollins SS
  2. Tyson Gillies CF
  3. Carlos Ruiz C
  4. Ryan Howard 1B
  5. Darin Ruf DH
  6. John Mayberry RF
  7. Kevin Frandsen 3B
  8. Freddy Galvis 2B
  9. Zach Collier LF
  1. Austin Jackson CF
  2. Torii Hunter RF
  3. Miguel Cabrera 3B
  4. Prince Fielder 1B
  5. Victor Martinez DH
  6. Andy Dirks LF
  7. Alex Avila C
  8. Omar Infante 2B
  9. Danny Worth SS