CLEARWATER, Fla. — Roy Halladay wants to make things clear: The pitch that sailed behind Tyler Moore's back "slipped" from his hand Wednesday. It was a cold and windy day, the kind of day when it is difficult to grip a baseball.
Then, Halladay smiled.
It was not difficult to see his message. The half inning before, Chase Utley was drilled on the knee with a Stephen Strasburg fastball. It did not appear to be intentional.
Halladay's action was, without him saying it.
Should the Phillies and Nationals be throwing at batters in March?
Really, I think, we do need to protect our guys to an extent," Halladay said, unprovoked. "I'm not saying that's what happened. It slipped. But that's important. We've had a lot of guys hit over the years. As a staff, we need to do a good job of protecting those guys. Spring training you're not necessarily trying to do it. But it wouldn't have been the worst thing had it got him after hitting one of our good guys."
Coincidentally, Halladay joked at the beginning of spring training that Utley had suggested he hit more batters.
Strasburg was confused about the whole incident.
"I don't have any reason to throw at him, do I?" Strasburg said.
"I mean, I don't understand why they'd think I was throwing at them. Obviously you can tell the conditions weren't great and I yanked it in there. It's spring training. If you're going to throw at somebody or give a message in spring training, go ahead."
Halladay approached his message a tad differently than Cole Hamels, who admitted to hitting Nationals phenom Bryce Harper last May. Hamels was suspended for that.
This was more diplomatic. It will probably irk some of the Nationals, just as Hamels did.
"Nobody should ever get hurt," Halladay said. "You never want to intentionally hurt guys. There is definitely a part of the game where you make sure your guys are taken care of."
Have a question? Send it to Matt Gelb's Mailbag.