Since losing 13 out of 14 to start the second half, the Phillies' season has become a lost cause, but on Thursday, they did get a bit of encouraging news. Roy Halladay pitched in a game for the first time since undergoing mid-May shoulder surgery, throwing six innings for the team's Gulf Coast League affiliate.
After a spring in which he struggled to summon his usual velocity, Halladay made just seven starts for Philadelphia and was rocked for an 8.65 ERA before going on the disabled list on May 6. A visit to orthopedic surgeon Dr. Neal ElAttrache revealed that he needed arthroscopic surgery to remove a bone spur and to repair a partially torn rotator cuff and a frayed labrum. He went under the knife on May 16.
Since then, the 36-year-old two-time Cy Young winner has been working his way back into game shape, and Thursday marked an important step in his return to competitive action. Halladay threw 87 pitches over six innings against the Pirates' GCL affiliate, allowing three runs via six hits and three walks while striking out four. Two of the runs he allowed came in his final inning of work, one on a solo homer by Ulises Montilla, who had not homered at all this year. There were no early reports on Halladay's velocity.
Halladay's line isn't all that impressive, particularly given that the competition largely consisted of 18- to 20-year-olds in their first seasons of professional ball, but via Bleacher Report's Will Carroll, a former SI.com and Baseball Prospectus injury writer, at least one scout who saw the start was impressed:
General manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said via a statement that Halladay will throw a bullpen session in Philadelphia on Saturday and then make another start on Tuesday with a minor league affiliate to be determined. Beyond that, his schedule is as up in the air as his future, and it doesn't help that the minor league season will end in early September. From there, pitching for the big club will be his only option, ideally in situations that don't have any impact on playoff races unless his performance between now and then merits it. The Phillies hold a $20 million option on Halladay's services for 2014, though any chance of that vesting by his reaching 225 innings this year or 415 in 2012-2013 has long since flown out the window. The team has $119.5 million already committed to next year's roster, and while Amaro could aim to re-sign him at a lower salary -- likely with a guaranteed base plus incentives -- Halladay will have his choice of all 30 teams assuming his option isn't picked up, a great number of whom don't have the combination of an aging, poorly constructed rosters and weak farm system that the Phillies do. Of course, the assumption that he'll have more attractive options rests on his continued ability to demonstrate effectiveness as his rehab stint progresses, something that's no guarantee given his age and mileage.