LAKEWOOD - Roy Halladay stopped at FirstEnergy Stadium on Tuesday night on a journey to determine his baseball future.
The pitcher's performance revealed he is still some distance from his desired destination - the major leagues.
The Phillies star, who underwent shoulder surgery in May, looked OK while pitching for the Lakewood BlueClaws, Philadelphia's single-A affiliate, against the Hagerstown Suns.
But there was nothing eye catching about Halladay's effort.
He allowed two runs (one earned) and seven hits in six innings.
Halladay, 36, struck out four and walked three. He threw 90 pitches - 52 for strikes. Halladay, however, came away encouraged by his outing. He said his cutter - one of his primary pitches - improved as the game wore on.
"I'm definitely a lot more effective than I was before the surgery," Halladay said. "Before, I didn't have the location. I didn't have the movement. I was lacking a lot of things."
The radar gun at FirstEnergy Park was shut off but radar guns behind home plate showed Halladay averaging about 87 mph on his fastball. He used to throw in the low 90s.
"Once you dip below 90, it sets off some bells and whistles," Halladay said. "But I feel comfortable where I'm at, and I feel there's another three to four miles per hour to come. The doctor said the velocity would be the last thing to come back."
He did not overpower the Hagerstown hitters. Instead, he mostly fooled them with breaking pitches. Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. watched the game from the press box.
Whether or not Halladay can return to the form that made him one of the game's best is one of the few interesting storylines left in what has been a disappointing Phillies season.
Halladay struggled before undergoing shoulder surgery in May. He was 2-4 with a 8.65 ERA in seven starts.
It was hard for Philadelphia fans to see him pitch so poorly. He was once arguably the best pitcher in baseball. Halladay won Cy Young Awards with the Toronto Blue Jays in 2003 and the Phillies in 2010.
Phillies fans saw Halladay throw a perfect game on May 29, 2010 against the Florida Marlins. He threw a no-hitter in the National League Division Series against the Cincinnati Reds on Oct. 6, 2010.
Halladay was 51-24 for Philadelphia from 2010-12.
But the injury and the way he pitched earlier this year puts his future in doubt. His contract with the Phillies expires at the end of the season.
Tuesday was his second rehabilitation start. Halladay allowed three runs and seven hits in six innings with the single-A Clearwater Phillies last Thursday.
Halladay took the mound on a warm summer night Tuesday. Fans filled the stadium. Many more sat on blankets on a grassy knoll beyond the outfield wall.
Many in the crowd had already planned to attend the game to receive a bobblehead doll of current Phillies reliever and former BlueClaw Jake Diekman, so seeing Halladay was an added bonus.
Anytime a Philadelphia player comes to Lakewood for a rehabilitation assignment there's always extra excitement at FirstEnergy Park. But Tuesday was even more special. Halladay is a potential Hall of Fame pitcher.
Many in the crowd wore Halladay's jersey with the number 34 on the back. Halladay won the number 44 Tuesday.
Ed McClosky of Penndale, Pa., wore his Halladay t-shirt.
"It's great to see him back," McClosky said. "I hope he can help the Phillies soon."
Brian Huntenburt snapped a photo of Halladay as he walked off the mound at the end of the third inning. Huntenburt's son telephoned him Tuesday afternoon and asked if he wanted to go to the game. The two brought lawn tickets.
"We're fortunate that we go to Citizens Bank Park (the Phillies home stadium)," Huntenburt, 51, said. "But here you're standing 50 feet from him."
Fans gave Halladay a standing ovation after the sixth inning. There had been some speculation that Halladay would return to the Phillies after two minor-league starts. Halladay said he felt he could get major-league hitters out.
"I feel like Jamie Moyer did it," Halladay said, "and he only threw 82 (mph)."
As for his overall future, and whether or not he re-signs with the Phillies, Halladay didn't seem too concerned, saying any decision will be made in the offseason.
"I don't worry about that," Halladay said. "I've played a long time. I'm not playing for money. If I have a situation where I have a chance to win, I might pay them."
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