It wasn’t so much the pitching as it was Halladay’s demeanor. At this point, we know the velocity on his pitches and the way in which he uses them aren’t going to change all that much between now and the rest of the season. The true measure will be next spring when he’s actually ready to pitch.
And yes, that means Halladay wasn’t completely ready to come back as early as he did. Even in his best years, Halladay was slow to progress during spring training. It took him some time to get his arm and mechanics in sync. But once he got there, he was locked in.
Will that be the same when Halladay actually gets a chance to recover and build up his strength from surgery in May? Who knows. But it has to be better than this.
Regardless, Halladay was as genuinely distraught and hurt after Thursday’s game than any athlete I’ve ever covered. I remember Jamie Moyer venting about being yanked from the rotation in favor of Pedro Martinez one afternoon while he sat in the stands at Wrigley Field, but that was anger and entitlement and not genuine pain.
I also remember when Randy Wolf when he announced that he needed reconstructive surgery and the fear on his face not knowing whether he would ever pitch again. In that instance it was a man coming to terms with the fact that each pitch or swing could be the last. The game will move on no matter what. It doesn’t need any of us.
With Halladay it was pure frustration and helplessness. Yes, he’s healthy. As healthy as any person can be with the best health care, specialists at his beckon call and a team of trainers and medics traveling the country with him. It’s not like he’s rubbing Icy Hot on his shoulder or icing down with a package of frozen vegetables.
For Halladay it’s like those deep, soul-searching examinations of an athlete coming to terms with something.
“I understand that there’s a tremendous amount of guys who might have never pitched again, and probably wouldn’t have been back in 3½ months,” Halladay said after Thursday’s game. “To me, that’s something to build on and focus on. To have the desire and want to do that, and try to do that for your team and your city … I understand there’s doubt. There’s doubt any time you have surgery. I feel like in a lot of ways I beat some odds. I know it’s hard for people to see that. They look at you as having a certain career, and it could be two weeks after surgery and they expect you to be there. I understand it, and that’s fine. I’m going to do the best I can to pitch for our team and do the best I can. I’m not worried about next year. I’m trying to do the best I can to fulfill my contract here. That’s what I was trying to do before. I want to play, and you get criticized for pitching hurt and wanting to be out there for your team and criticize for trying to come back and do the right thing, that’s tough to swallow. But I believe I’m mentally strong enough to do that.”
Meanwhile, across the diamond at Nationals Park, there is a right-hander who also had surgery a couple of years ago and some whether if he ever will come back. Yes, Stephen Strasburg was scratched as the starter for Friday night’s game because of soreness in his right arm. Nats manager Davey Johnson said Strasburg felt the soreness when trying out a new pitch a couple of days ago.
Strasburg has made 28 starts this season, the same he made last year when he was unceremoniously shut down after 159 innings and missed the playoffs. He wasn’t hurt, and he says he could have pitched. But he didn’t. The idea was that the future was more important than the present. That's probably the same sentiment this time, too. Strasburg probably could pitch with the Nats clinging to dim playoff hopes. Instead, he'll wait.
Maybe Strasburg ought to have a chat with Halladay.
In the meantime, Halladay is preparing for the fur
“I want to pitch. I have things that I want to prove to myself and things that I want to accomplish,” Halladay said. “I don’t want to be a guy that gets knocked down and stays down. I want to get back up and fight and that’s what a lot of this has been about. I felt like I got knocked down and this is my chance to stand up and keep fighting. You keep getting knocked down, you keep standing back up.”
1.) Cesar Hernandez, cf
2.) Jimmy Rollins, ss
3.) Chase Utley, 2b
4.) Carlos Ruiz, c
5.) Darin Ruf, rf
6.) Cody Asche, 3b
7.) Kevin Frandsen, 1b
8.) Freddy Galvis, lf
9.) Kyle Kendrick, p
1.) Denard Span, cf
2.) Ryan Zimmerman, 3b
3.) Jayson Werth, rf
4.) Bryce Harper, lf
5.) Ian Desmond, ss
6.) Adam LaRoche, 1b
7.) Wilson Ramos, c
8.) Stephen Lombardozzi, 2b
9.) Ross Ohlendorf, p