Saturday morning at Ashburn Field Baseball Betsy and I were ready to sit back and watch Roy Halladay hopefully regain his magic on the mound after his battle with the flu and struggles in prior starts this spring. Unfortunately he did not have it again. We were concerned because he lacked command, velocity and did not miss the bats that we have come to expect from the two time Cy Young winner. To us and many other observers in the stands this morning Doc is the key to the Phillies success this year and the results were not encouraging.
As we sat and watched we knew this was not the Doc of old. According to reports he threw 81 pitches in four innings. He gave up seven hits, three runs and hit a batter. He had only one or three swing and miss strikes depending on which report we read. He had only one strike out, called, and was saved from more damage by three double plays behind him in his four innings of work. His fastball velocity was reported in the high 80’s and hitting 90 mph only once.
What made today’s outing even more unbelievable was this was the same AAA Toronto Blue Jays that Jesse Biddle faced the day before at the Englebert Complex up the road a few miles in Dunedin. In that game in his four inning start Biddle gave up no runs, three hits, walked two and struck seven including four swing and miss strike threes. In that game Jesse left the game leading another Cy Young pitcher R.A. Dickey 5-0 after four innings. On the other hand in Saturday’s game Doc left trailing the same AAA team after four innings, 3-0 and was hit hard.
Halladay has only one more start on Thursday before the start of the major league season. It will be hard to expect an 180 degree turn around but anything is possible for this true professional and once great pitcher. Doc today reminded me of Freddy Garcia the year he won only one game for the Phillies and Brad Lidge in his last year in spring training with the Phillies. Both of them lost their 90 mph plus fastballs and tried unsuccessfully to get by almost exclusively with off speed pitches just like Doc is now trying to do with his cutters, sliders. change ups and curves.
Without a strong Halladay in the rotation the Phillies starting pitching will not be the same. If the Philles choose to put Doc on the 15 day disabled list and keep him in extended spring training or give him some work with the Clearwater Threshers to start the season he would likely be replace by veteran Aaron Cook in the Phillies rotation. Then at AAA it would look like lefty power pitcher Adam Morgan winning a spot in the rotation and just might be the best of the likely AAA starters including Jonathan Pettibone, Ethan Martin, Tyler Cloyd and veteran minor league lefty Tom Cochran. The Phillies have released Rodrigo Lopez who once figured to start at AAA.
Last year Adam Morgan was the opening day starter for the Clearwater Threshers and was impressive yesterday in a start against the Atlanta Braves. It seems like Biddle will be joined by David Buchanan, Brody Colvin and Austin Wright in the Reading rotation. Yesterday 22 year old lefty Hoby Milner started for the AA team and was effective against the AA Blue Jays but he would have to jump over the Threshers from Lakewood to Reading. Former reliever Juan Sosa has been given several starts at AA and A levels in the spring minor league camp but he has not been effective when I have seen him pitch.
Whatever happens in the next few weeks what we do know is that Roy Halladay is having a difficult spring even against the same AAA hitters that Jesse Biddle had put away only the day before.