Roy Halladay says his reduced velocity and inflated ERA at this point in spring training isn’t a big deal. Ron Opher says Halladay, based on his track record, deserves the benefit of the doubt — for now.
Roy Halladay‘s spring ERA, in 3 starts thus far, is 10.57. Halladay gave up 5 runs in less than 3 innings against the Twins on Wednesday. If you ask Jonathan Papelbon, since Halladay is a Phillie, it should be no big deal — since we all know (and Papelbon confirmed) that Phillies fans are far less hysterical than their counterparts from Boston (see our last Phillies notebook for more details on Papelbon’s pontifications).
Still, there are persistent reports that Halladay’s velocity is down. Is this a cause for concern, or something that comes with the mid-March territory?
While admitting that his velocity is not yet where he needs it to be, Halladay responded tersely when inquisitors implied that there was a bigger health problem:
“Yeah, I heard about that … poor reporting on the extreme end of poor reporting. It couldn’t be further from the truth,” Halladay elaborated. “[y]eah, I’m 34 and 2500 (career major league) innings, it does take a while to get going. I don’t pay attention to that (velocity). The older you get, the more you throw, the longer it takes to get yourself going.”
Before we dismiss Halladay’s statements as wishful thinking, let’s not forget that this is the same pitcher who went 40-16 in his last two seasons, winning a Cy Young Award, throwing a perfect game and a playoff no-hitter. Yes, he lost his last meaningful game — by a 1-0 score. By just about any measure, Halladay, even with Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels on the team, is still the staff ace.
He also has thrown just over 7 innings and has struck out 10 (which as of his last outing was tied for 4th among all MLB pitchers this spring). He gets 3 more spring starts — the next one has been pushed back a day to Tuesday at the Orioles — before the games start to count.
Yes, PhillyPhanatics.com is known for its bad puns, including interchanging “Halladay” and “holiday.” While on the topic of holidays. we’d be remiss if we didn’t point out that the Phillies again celebrated St. Patrick’s Day by wearing green, a tradition that has swept the major leagues and carries over into the NHL (at least with jerseys worn during pregame warmups) and NBA (see the Bulls jerseys against the Sixers).
The tradition is reported to have surfaced as early as the 1899 Ed Delahanty-era Phillies, who wore a green-trimmed jersey on March 17 that year while training in Charlotte, N.C.
The full-green jersey tradition started in spring 1981, when the late Tug McGraw dyed his regular Phillies uniform green and took the field on March 17 — until umpire Nick Colosi spoiled the fun and instructed McGraw to leave the field and return with the standard issue burgundy-colored jersey.
Undaunted, the Phillies picked up on the one-time prank and turned it into an official celebration. The team requests a spring home game every March 17. Judging by how the green jersey tradition is now big in multiple sports, there is no doubt that McGraw was a man ahead of his time.
We miss you, Tug.
While on the subject of left-handed relievers, the Phillies released Dontrelle Willis Friday, the same day he had his most effective outing this spring (1 inning, 0 hits, 0 runs, 1 walk, lowering his ERA to 16.88). The timing was certainly strange (Willis was actually credited with the win), but the whole saga of Willis’ abbreviated career as a Phillie is odd.
First, it was not clear that any other MLB team would have offered Willis a guaranteed major league contract for 2012. In steps Ruben Amaro, Jr., throwing a guaranteed $850,000 at Willis while trying to put the finishing touches on a deal with Jimmy Rollins — who happens to be a close friend of Willis.
Willis had some very nice numbers against left-handed hitters in 4 of the last 5 seasons, but this spring he was being given full innings to work, and apparently was being judged on those innings.
It’s not clear whether this move gives another lefty a better shot at making the team. Jeremy Horst (6.75 ERA, gave up a walk-off 3-run HR to journeyman Brian Bixler Tuesday), acquired from the Reds for Wilson Valdez, hasn’t been much better than Willis. David Purcey, who managed to pitch for 3 different MLB teams last season (Blue Jays, A’s and Tigers) and has a 3.00 spring ERA in 5 relief outings (and also bears a striking resemblance to former Phillie Pat Burrell) may be in the picture. Scott Elarton, a 36-year-old righthander, may also be the beneficiary of the Willis release, but that depends on whether the Phillies are going to take the best pitchers of the spring north, or whether they are taking the staff that figures to pitch better — including situational pitching — as a staff when the games count. Even Elarton, who was lights out in his first two spring outings, got roughed up this week, giving up 3 runs in two relief innings in a split-squad game against the Rays.
The Phillies made their first cuts of spring training earlier this week, including assigning prospects Sebastian Valle, Tyson Gillies, J.C. Ramirez, Cesar Hernandez and Harold Garcia to AA Reading. Among the non-roster players shipped out was Conestoga High School product Dave Bush, who at age 32 will try to work his way back to the big leagues as a starter at AAA Lehigh Valley, after being a serviceable starter for the Blue Jays and later the Brewers.
Interestingly, Bush was one of only three pitchers to beat the Phillies in the 2008 postseason (in Game 3 of the NLDS).
I know you can look this up, but to keep you on your toes: who are the other two pitchers to beat the Phillies in the 2008 postseason? Your hint is that both figure to pitch in the American League this season.