The Phillies will be without Roy Halladay for a significant amount of time, although the veteran righthander said that doctors have told him that they are optimistic that he can return to pitch at some point in 2013.
Halladay said that doctor have diagnosed him with a partial tear of the rotator cuff and the fraying of his labrum due to rubbing against a bone spur that is in his right pitching shoulder. The veteran righthander has elected to undergo arthroscopic surgery to repair the rotator cuff and labrum and remove the bone spur, a process that he says they will try to make as "uninvasive" as possible with the hope of getting him back on the mound before the end of the season.
Clearly, though, the Phillies will need to plan on being without their one-time ace until at least August, and Halladay admitted that doctors could find more damage than they anticipated when they actually go into his shoulder with cameras and see the structure first hand.
Whenever he returns, though, Halladay said that doctors have told him they are confident they will have been able to "turn back the clock two or three years."
"A scope and a cleanup to me is a lot different than a surgery," said Halladay, who has struggled with his velocity and his location since last season. "They aren't going in and trying to reattach the rotator cuff, which would be a year and a half and really, very low success rate of pitching again. The fact that it's a scope, a cleanup, to me is a lot better than going in and having to reattach a full surgery. It's a lot better option, obviously it's a lot quicker, and at my age I think it's the best thing for me."
Halladay said he was prepared for the worst when he visited Dr. Neal ElAttache in Los Angeles on Monday, although he downplayed a conversation that he had with former big league pitcher and current ESPN analyst Rick Sutcliffe in which he mentioned retirement.
"Nobody wants to go out on a bad note," Halladay said. "If you have your choice, you want to go out strong. Really, ideally, you want to go out as a world champion. But some of those things aren't in your control. I have no regrets at any point over my career and if things don't work out and they do end on a sour note, I'm not going to look at it that way, but I really don't feel that is going to be the case. I feel like I have a shot to come back and help our team and be effective."
Halladay said that he underwent an arthrogram, where dye is injected into the shoulder and then scanned in a full body tube. He said he assumes that he has been pitching with the condition for years, but that he does not remember doctors mentioning a bone spur last May when he underwent an MRI during a seven-week stay on the disabled list. Halladay returned in July and had an inconsistent final couple months of the season.
Halladay said he does not regret waiting this long to have the shoulder looked at. He spent all offseason strengthening his shoulder and his core and is convinced that it was the proper course of action because he did not feel much pain in the shoulder.
"I think we did all the right things," Halladay said. "There's just no crystal ball. Now I feel like I have something to grasp onto and something to move forward with. I don't feel as lost as before. I feel like there are some answers there. I feel like there are some things that we see that can be done. I'm optimistic that we'll get it fixed and I'll be able to come back and pitch."
Halladay said that some pitchers have returned to pitching in three months, but he cautioned that an exact timetable will not be known until after doctors go into the shoulder and confirm that what they see jibes with the diagnosis they made based on diagnostic scans.
"In certain cases it's been three months, but we really don't have a timetable," Halladay said. "I think the timetable is going to come once they go in and confirm hey, what we saw on the x rays is exactly what we saw when we went in there. They were definitely optimistic that I would be back this year. But of course we're going to be as smart as we can and do the best we can throughout the whole process. But I really think the timetable is going to be based on when they go in, does it look how they think it does."
Halladay was examined in Los Angeles on Monday. The Phillies have recalled righthander Tyler Cloyd from the minors, although general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. indicated that the team is looking for longer term options outside the organization.
"The doctor seemed pretty optimistic that if what they saw is correct hat I could come back and be a lot more effective and have a chance to pitch this year and they said they thought they could turn back the clock two or three years for me," Halladay said. "I thought that was very good news. Obviously I don't want to miss time but I think as far as scenarios go, I feel like it's a lot better than some of the things I anticipated."
Halladay said that he has not felt a great deal of pain throughout the whole process. He mentioned that to the doctor, who said that pain would be the last symptom he would feel.
"He said the biggest thing you are going to notice is lack of location first and foremost, and then velocity, and then if it gets to a certain point you may start feeling a little bit of pain," Halladay said. "The pain isn't really excruciating. I really didn't' feel pain the whole time. I think maybe it got to a point where it frayed enough that I got to feel it."
Halladay left open the potential of him pitching in the bullpen, and the potential of him returning to Philadelphia as a free agent next season. But a lot depends on what happens during the surgery, which he hopes will happen at some point within the next week, and the ensuing rehab.
If the Phillies can find a way back to the postseason, that would of course increase the odds of Halladay donning the red pinstripes again.