LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. - When it comes to evaluating the trade that landed Roy Halladay for a trio of prospects fronted by righthander Kyle Drabek, Tuffy Gosewisch has a unique perspective.
Last year, the 26-year-old minor leaguer caught Drabek at Double A Reading. This year, he has caught Halladay in a bullpen session.
When asked to assess the level of pitching talent involved in the mid-December trade, Gosewisch just shakes his head.
"It's pretty disgusting," he said. "You've got Roy, who has proven what he can do, probably the best pitcher in the game right now, and you've got Kyle, who's got enough talent to probably do the same thing."
In a span of less than 24 hours, culminating with this afternoon's Grapefruit League game against the Toronto Blue Jays, the Phillies will see both. Last night, it was Halladay showing exactly why general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. so coveted him, striking out five batters in three scoreless innings against Atlanta. This afternoon, it will be Drabek who is scheduled to pitch for the Jays against the Phillies in Dunedin.
"It will be interesting," pitching coach Rich Dubee said.
Just don't expect any buyer's remorse from the Phillies. Halladay arrived at Disney's Wide World of Sports Complex at 2:15 yesterday afternoon, nearly an hour ahead of the team bus. By the time a group of future minor leaguers finished off a 7-4 win over the Braves, the team's regulars having long since departed for Clearwater, he was still in the visitors' clubhouse, wearing his workout clothes and eating a banana.
"You can really see what separates the great ones," a Phillies staffer said as he watched Halladay retreat to the trainer's room.
The Phillies clung to Drabek throughout trade negotiations last season, believing that one day he too might develop into one of the great ones. The 2006 first-round draft pick so impressed the Phillies with his recovery from 2007 Tommy John surgery that they plucked him out of minor league camp last spring and started him in a Grapefruit League game against the Yankees.
Of the three prospects the Phillies dealt to Toronto for Halladay, Drabek was the one the Blue Jays coveted the most, and the one the Phillies most hated to lose.
He went 8-2 with a 3.64 ERA in 15 games at Reading last season, averaging 7.1 strikeouts and 2.9 walks per nine innings.
"He's got one of the best arms I've ever seen," Gosewisch said. "He's got a great off-speed pitch in his curveball. The changeup could be good if he keeps working on it. He's super talented."
But Drabek was still a work in progress, an inexperienced 22-year-old kid who needed to prove he could consistently retire lefthanded hitters. Some talent evaluators still think he might be a two-pitch guy whose future lies at the back of the bullpen. His potential is big, but no bigger than Halladay's present.
Last night, the Phillies' new ace spent most of the first inning pounding the strike zone with his sinker and cutter, allowing a pair of singles before launching a devastating curveball that prompted a feeble inning-ending strikeout from Brian McCann.
As good as Halladay has been in his first two outings, striking out eight in five scoreless innings, he has thrown his curveball, his third-most-used pitch last year, only four or five times.
"You hate giving up runs, whether it is spring training or during the season," Halladay said. "You are doing different things [in spring training], but you still hate to give up runs."
Thus far, it hasn't been a problem.