SAN FRANCISCO — Roy Halladay never went looking Monday for that black stationary bike in the bowels of AT&T Park. He had not stepped foot on the mound here since Oct. 21, 2010. The only reason he could keep throwing off it in Game 5 of the National League Championship Series was because of that bike that helped stretch a strained groin muscle.
"I don't ever want to see that again," Halladay said Monday. Then he smiled.
This time, Halladay could pitch without pain in a Phillies' 5-2 victory over the Giants. Then again, he did not dazzle with his best stuff. Halladay's velocity is experiencing an April drop. His results are not.
More than anything, it has shown the value of a well-located pitch.
"That and being smart," Halladay said. "For me, location and movement has always been more important than velocity. I'd love to be able to throw 95 every pitch, but as long as I'm locating and we're moving it… I think at times I need to take that as opposed to trying to add. That's where I get myself in trouble."
Halladay is throwing more cutters than sinkers because the cutter is a pitch he said he can throw with consistency to both sides of the plate. Last April, Halladay threw his cutter 48 percent of the time with an average velocity of 91.3 m.p.h. according to Pitch F/X data. He's thrown the cutter 51 percent of the time with an 89.5 m.p.h. average velocity this April.
On Monday, the drop was even more pronounced. He averaged 87.9 m.p.h. on his cutter and topped out at 90.8 m.p.h. with his sinker. But few of the pitches were straight.
It's hard to argue with the results. He's allowed two or fewer runs in each of his first three starts and the Phillies have won all three.
"I'll go back and check the gun readings later," Halladay said. "As long as I can focus on mechanics and repeating, that's more important for me right now. Being able to repeat consistently, if I can do that, I'm going to be fine. I don't necessarily need the extra one or two miles per hour if I'm doing the other things right."
It's important to note that according to Major League Baseball's Pitch F/X data, which is synchronized at every ballpark, a litany of top pitchers have experienced decreased velocity early in 2012. Even if the system is calibrated correctly, one scout wondered Monday how important April velocity readings are. It could portend arm issues later, but in Halladay's case, it simply appears the 34-year-old righthander needs more and more time as he ages to build arm strength.
What should be most encouraging about Halladay's outings are each time he has improved later in the game. In Monday's victory, he required only 24 pitches to record his final nine outs.
Halladay said his rhythm and mechanics are better later. He's used recent bullpen sessions to improve his all-around accuracy.
"It's not that it's not there," Halladay said. "It's just not consistent. It's there, but I feel like at times early on I get caught trying to make something better than it should be and getting away from what I should be doing. Really, I think that's the biggest thing. Staying within myself and not trying to make better pitches than I need to. I feel like that's been the biggest reason."
For the 19th time in his last 37 starts, the first batter of the game reached base against Halladay. Eleven times, including Monday, that runner has scored. If there is any fault to find in his performance, it's there.
"There are times when I'm trying to do too much," he said.
If doing too much yields a 1.17 ERA, the Phillies are quite content with that.
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