Inside the Phillies: On day after, Doc sticks to routine

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Roy Halladay arrived to the ballpark early yesterday, around 10 a.m., a team spokesman said. (Michael Bryant/Staff Photographer)

The day after could have been a whirlwind tour of television appearances and interview sessions for Phillies ace Roy Halladay.

Instead, he decided to treat Thursday like any other day after a start during his first unforgettable season in Philadelphia.

In short, Halladay arrived early to work - around 10 a.m. a team spokesman said - and started preparing for his next start, scheduled for Monday against the Reds in Cincinnati.

The spokesman said Halladay declined appearance requests from the CBS Early Show, The Late Show with David Letterman and CNN following his no-hit, near-perfect game Wednesday night that gave the Phillies a lead of one game to none in their division series with Cincinnati.

Halladay also stayed away from the interview room before the Phillies' workout. His only media appearance was with former Phillies closer Mitch Williams on the MLB Network. Halladay did speak with Vice President Biden and Mayor Nutter after the game Wednesday, and the team announced that his game jersey will be donated to the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y.

One topic that received little attention after Halladay's historic performance was his game-changing at-bat in the bottom of the second inning. Rick Wise's no-hit, two-home run performance against the Reds in a 1971 game remains the greatest single hitting performance by a Phillies pitcher. But Halladay's at-bat off Cincinnati starter Edinson Volquez had higher stakes.

Volquez retired the first two batters he faced in the second before issuing what appeared to be a pitch-around walk to Carlos Ruiz. Wilson Valdez reached on an infield single to keep the inning alive, and Halladay followed by lining a first-pitch fastball into right field for an RBI single.

"That was a big hit," manager Charlie Manuel said. "He knocked in a big run and set up some more."

Halladay's hit and the way he has improved at handling a bat since the start of the season is another indication of the righthander's desire to conquer everything he does. As a lifelong American Leaguer, Halladay seldom got a chance to use a bat with the Toronto Blue Jays. He had three career hits in 39 at-bats before this season for a .079 average.

It was clear early on that Halladay wanted to improve on those numbers.

"The very first game, he was talking about how mad he was about not cashing in on a few opportunities with the bases loaded, and he was literally angry at himself," Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said. "Just like anything else, he is one of those guys that works on it diligently and tries to improve. He's not a great hitter, but he's trying to work as hard as he can to make himself as good as he can possibly be."

Halladay's improvement as a hitter can be measured by a timeline. On July 10, after going hitless in two at-bats against Cincinnati rookie Travis Wood, Halladay was batting .098. From that point on, he batted .195 and twice came through with two-out, two-run singles in wins over Florida and the New York Mets.

Phillies shortstop Jimmy Rollins said in jest that he can take credit for Halladay's improvement as a hitter.

"I usually inspire guys, and Roy didn't want to be the weakest-hitting pitcher in the NL," Rollins said. "It's weird. Nobody on base, Roy doesn't get hits. You put guys out there in front of him, man, he puts the bat on the ball. Every time he comes up and I'm on deck, I'm like: 'They don't know Roy's at his best with runners in scoring position.' The guy just has it. Whatever 'it' is, he just has it."

Halladay definitely was not the worst hitting pitcher in the National League. His .141 batting average ranked 27th among pitchers with at least 50 plate appearances, and his 13 hits were tied for eighth.

There is every reason to believe that in time Halladay will be among the best hitting pitchers in the National League.

"He works at it," pitching coach Rich Dubee said. "Roy wants to do everything well. He expects to do everything well. I know one thing, when he goes up there, he expects to hit."

 


Contact staff writer Bob Brookover at 215-854-2577 or bbrookover@phillynews.com.