The setting will change Thursday, when Roy Halladay boards a plane bound for Florida. His recovery started in stadium bullpens around the country. It will intensify in the form of a simulated game Saturday in Clearwater, which could be the final progression before Halladay appears in a minor-league game.
All signs point to the erstwhile ace's return sometime this season. He has suffered no setbacks in rehabbing his shoulder surgery. He is "cautiously optimistic" about his ability to compete at a higher level than his first seven starts of 2013.
He said Philadelphia is his first choice for employer in 2014. Both player and team can use September as a month of due diligence.
"I'm not worried about next year," Halladay said. "I want to come back and pitch. I just want to be a part of things and be effective. There was a lot going on in [my shoulder] that was affecting things. Really, for myself, to come back and say, 'Hey, this is something I could overcome,' that means more than anything.
"I'm not coming back to try to get a contract for next year, a bigger contract, anything like that. I just want to come back and pitch. After that, hopefully make a decision on where I can win. I hope that's here."
Halladay said he "sees a lot here" to convince him the Phillies can contend in 2014. A healthy and effective Halladay could increase those odds a great deal. Even if Halladay is half the pitcher he was in 2011, the last season he was healthy, he provides great value.
The Phillies have plenty of incentive in Halladay's return this season. So, too, does the pitcher.
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