TAMPA, Fla. — One of Rich Dubee's favorite sayings is, "He's fine." The Phillies pitching coach will summon it in any situation when pressed about a particular arm. In the wake of Roy Halladay's discouraging start Tuesday, Dubee has repeated it over and over.
When Halladay displayed similar distressing signs last spring, Dubee said it then, too. "He's fine." But Dubee knew it was not the truth.
"He had issues last year," Dubee said Wednesday. "He had issues. He can't make it public. Why should he? You guys don't need to know everything, first of all. This guy didn't want anybody to know he was banged up last year."
So, if Dubee lied last spring, why should anyone take his word now?
"You can believe what you want," Dubee said. "I’m telling you what I knew last year and what I know this year. He felt obligated to take the ball. This is a special guy, you know? And he tried to pitch through some stuff last year. Right now at this point this year he feels fantastic physically."
And the mystery of Halladay's so-called "lethargy" continues. Dubee said he spoke to Halladay on Wednesday and, predictably, "He's fine." The plan remains for Halladay to start Sunday and follow his usual in-between starts routine, which includes a bullpen session Thursday.
Dubee wants Halladay to reach 85 or 90 pitches vs. Baltimore on Sunday.
Against Detroit, Halladay allowed seven runs on six hits in 2 2/3 innings. Eleven of the 18 batters he faced reached base. He walked four, uncorked a wild pitch, and hit a batter. His fastball velocity dippped between 84 to 88 m.p.h., according to two scouts' radar guns.
It was jarring.
"You can throw any red flag you want up there," Dubee said.
The pitching coach says the secret lies in Halladay's cutter, a pitch he used 40 percent of the time in 2012 according to Pitch F/X data. Dubee said Halladay changes his arm slot and delivery when he attempts to throw certain cutters. That causes it to float over the heart of the plate.
There is no injury to blame, Dubee insisted. Dubee said he had "more concerns" last spring even though they were hidden from the public's eyes.
"He is not having any physical problems this year," Dubee said. "Any. Arm. Back. Legs. Nothing."
And no one knows whether he is telling the truth or not.
Have a question? Send it to Matt Gelb's Mailbag.