Halladay's unwavering dedication to routine helps fuel excellence

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From February through October, each day has a specific plan and purpose for Roy Halladay. (David Maialetti/Staff file photo)

Harvey Dorfman's contributions to Roy Halladay's rise from a struggling young starter with the Toronto Blue Jays to the best pitcher in baseball have been well documented.

The Mental ABC's of Pitching, a book authored by the recently deceased Dorfman, became Halladay's baseball bible, a how-to course on narrowing focus in order to maximize performance.

Less well known are the influences of Carlos Delgado, a former big-league slugger, and swimmer Michael Phelps, the most decorated Olympic athlete in history.

While Dorfman became Halladay's mental guru, Delgado and Phelps made less direct contributions to the meticulous preparation the ace of the Phillies aces goes through between each start.

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As a young pitcher with the Blue Jays, Halladay noticed that Delgado kept a book on each pitcher he faced in an effort to catalog what he might be seeing on a particular night.

"It was amazing how he could go back and really have an idea of what his at-bat was going to be like just by looking at his past stuff," Halladay said. "I saw that, and decided I should start keeping better track of the hitters."

Phelps' role in Halladay's routine is entirely indirect, and it begins immediately after the righthander throws his final pitch in a game. Known for his endurance on the mound - Halladay has led the majors in complete games five of the last eight years - the pitcher grew interested in the workouts of two of the world's greatest athletes.

"I started reading some things a few years ago, and Lance Armstrong had a lot of interesting ideas. But the one I really added to my workouts was from Michael Phelps," Halladay said. "He'd talk about how he would go out and do all these races and as soon as he was done he'd go out and swim laps in the pool. He said that really was the only reason he was able to go out and do all those races in the Olympics.

"It made sense. All of a sudden you shut your body down after this intense activity, and if you completely shut it down, you aren't really helping yourself start a recovery process."

Halladay, 33, obviously cannot go find another place to pitch to hitters once he is done working. Instead, he logs miles on a stationary bike.

The fact that Halladay's preparation for his next start begins as soon as his previous start is over explains a lot about why he has become baseball's premier pitcher. You don't lead your league in innings pitched four times, win 20 games three times and the Cy Young Award twice by going at things half-heartedly.

Halladay has each day of his baseball life mapped out, starting in spring training when he wakes up at 4 a.m. and is almost always the first to arrive at Bright House Field.

"It's just the way I like doing it," Halladay said. "I found out early in my career that I'd go out and do all my stuff on the field, and there were times when I'd come in and I lost the ambition to do all the things I needed to get done. I'd just as soon go fishing or golfing, because we didn't have to be there after the workout was over. I just felt like if I could get in and get my stuff done, it's a more quality workout and then at the end of the day I'm done."

During the season, each day between starts has a specific plan and purpose for Halladay.

The day after his start, for example, he goes through extensive leg and cardio workouts.

"The legs, especially that day, are really important because that's what I work on more intensely than anything else," Halladay said.

Two days after a start, Halladay goes through an upper-body workout and his bullpen session.

Halladay's bullpen focus and intensity vary based on the time of year and how he is feeling.

"During the season, I think it's just body awareness," he said. "You're working on your mechanics and making sure you feel comfortable with what you're doing. You're not real worried about your location or what your pitches are doing."

Two days before a start, Halladay turns his workout attention back to his feet and legs. "I do a lot of agility and foot-quickness drills and some sort of light leg exercises," he said.

Halladay also starts studying the video and print library of the hitters he will be facing in his next start.

The studying continues the day of his actual start, which is the one day Halladay typically does not beat his teammates to the ballpark.

"When you're out there and you have your plan established with your catcher, then you just really start going with what he's doing," he said. "Situations do come up where you may think, 'I saw this, and this is what we talked about, so let's do this here.' But after I talk to Carlos [Ruiz] - especially with him, because he has been great - I don't feel like I have to sit there and do this on a certain pitch or that on another pitch. I can let him call the game."

It was a combination that led to perfection, a Cy Young Award, and so many other special moments a year ago.

 


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