CLEARWATER, Fla. — Roy Halladay is still looking for the one thing he came to the Philadelphia Phillies to get: A World Series ring.
Halladay has thrown a perfect game, tossed a no-hitter in his first career postseason start, won a National League Cy Young Award and is 51-22 in his three seasons with the Phillies. But he hasn’t added that elusive championship.
This week, as pitchers and catchers reported for duty, Halladay began the quest of chasing that down. It won’t be easy. After all, he is coming off an injury-plagued year in which he had his fewest wins (11) since 2004 and the second-worst ERA (4.49) in his career.
“I’m playing to win a World Series,” Halladay said Wednesday. “That’s why I’m playing baseball and for no other reason. However we get to that goal, that’s the bottom line. If it takes 320 innings and I can throw it, I’ll do it. That’s the reason I’m here. And that’s it. I’m not worried about next year and two years and three years from now. I’m trying to win a World Series.”
Halladay missed nearly two months in the middle of the season because of a shoulder problem and never found his groove. But on Day 1 here, Halladay declared he’s feeling just fine.
“I feel really good right now,” he said. “For me the biggest issue last year was, starting off, I had lower back issues that I really hadn’t dealt with before. It kind of snuck up on me and changed a lot of the things I did mechanically, so, going into this winter that was a focus for us.”
Halladay changed his workout and throwing programs in the offseason, hoping to avoid any issues this spring. It’s only the first week, but he’s off to an encouraging start.
“You try to stay ahead of the curve as much as you can,” he said. “But unfortunately there are things sometimes you have to do differently to change the way you feel. But I feel as good now as I have in any other spring training. Last year, it’s not that I felt bad; it just never seemed to click for me. And the longer it got into the season I could never really solve the problems I was having. It made it tough. But I feel like the things we’ve done this winter have made a big difference. There is no such thing as a crystal ball. But I’m confident that if I can maintain the way I feel right now, that I’m going to be effective.”
Given his age (35) and all the innings (2,687) he’s accumulated in his 15 seasons with Toronto and Philadelphia, it’s natural to assume Halladay won’t have quite the same velocity on his fastball and may not pitch as deep into games.
“The velocity to me isn’t a concern,” he said. “I don’t know where it’s at. I don’t know where it’s going to be. But as long as I feel like I can easily make pitches to parts of the plate that I want to make it to, I feel like I’m a lot better off than I was. I felt like there were a lot of times last year when I was struggling physically and mechanically to get the balls to the parts of the plate where I wanted it.”
Halladay is entering the final season of a $60 million, three-year contract extension he signed after being traded to the Phillies in December 2009. He has a vesting option for $20 million for 2014, but it’s unlikely he’ll reach it because he has to throw 2582/3 innings.
The Phillies already have two other starters making more than $20 million. Cliff Lee is on the books for $25 million the next three seasons and Cole Hamels is scheduled to make $19.5 million this year and $22.5 million from 2014-18. So, it’s possible Halladay could be entering his final season in red pinstripes.
“I’m not at all worried about next season,” Halladay said when asked if he talked about a new deal with the Phillies. “I’m worried about this year and making the most of this year and then you go from there. But there has been no dialogue and I don’t expect there to be dialogue. I expect to prepare to go out and do my job and let everything else take care of itself.”
If he had his way, Halladay, of course, wants to stay in Philadelphia.
“I don’t want to play anywhere else,” he said. “This has been the best place I’ve ever played.”
Notes: All-Star catcher Carlos Ruiz, speaking to reporters for the first time since his 25-game suspension for PED use, apologized to his teammates and fans. Ruiz reportedly tested positive for Adderall, an amphetamine commonly used to control attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). It was his second positive test for the stimulant. “It’s hard, man,” he said. “I want to be on the field. I want to play. I made a mistake, and I paid for that. I put that behind and am ready for this season.” ... The Phillies open the Grapefruit League season Feb. 23 vs. Houston.