One ace remains with the Phillies: Cole Hamels
Halladay is retired now and thinking about a career as a sports psychologist. Lee is facing an uncertain future as he tries to rehab an elbow injury without surgery. Hamels is stuck on a rebuilding team and hoping for a chance to win somewhere.
Only two years ago, Halladay, Lee and Hamels were the three aces in the same Philadelphia Phillies' rotation. Four years ago, Roy Oswalt joined them to form one of the best starting staffs in decades.
Things changed fast.
Halladay threw his last pitch on Sept. 23, 2013. Injuries forced the two-time Cy Young Award winner out of the game at age 36. He visited the Phillies on Monday and plans to return to talk to pitchers about the mental aspect of their craft.
Halladay credits the late psychologist Harvey Dorfman with his turnaround after early struggles in Toronto.
''I learned so much from Harvey,'' Halladay said. ''I feel like that's where I can help the most. There's just nobody out there doing what Harvey did. That's something that I think baseball needs. I was fortunate.
''Mental fortitude, an awareness, that extra edge. That's what Harvey taught that was so valuable, and really I feel more of a responsibility to share what I learned from him than anything. Because he is unable to do it and there is nobody out there teaching the way he taught or the principles he taught. It's so basic. It is a weapon. It is absolutely a weapon.''
Lee and Hamels should be first in line to seek Halladay's advice.
Lee has a torn common flexor tendon and was placed on the 60-day disabled list. An operation was recommended, but the 36-year-old lefty hopes to avoid season-ending surgery.
If he reaches that point, the four-time All-Star might retire instead.
''Part of you wants to just stay in there and keep throwing until something snaps and it's completely done and the other part you want to make sure you do the smart, right thing for your body physically and for the team and for everything involved,'' Lee said. ''It's definitely frustrating when you know your body is not allowing you to do it.''
Halladay knows the feeling.
''Any time you can't go out and do what you've done your whole life, it's a challenge,'' Halladay said. ''It's a major adjustment in your life and even if you're still playing, it's something you have to overcome and learn how to deal with it.''
The 31-year-old Hamels is still in his prime, looking for an opportunity to pitch for a contender again. He's the most valuable trade commodity on the team, and it is likely he'll end up going to another club at some point this season.
Halladay knows that feeling, too.
''The hardest thing was answering the questions about do you really want to leave, do you want to go somewhere else, what's it going to be like to leave,'' Halladay said, reflecting on his trade from the Blue Jays to the Phillies. ''That was hard to answer those questions after every start. That was difficult. It's something you have to do, but it was difficult.''
Hamels isn't they type of player who would demand a trade, but the 2008 World Series MVP has made it clear he wants to be on a winner. Hamels is entering the third season of a $144 million, six-year deal he signed in July 2012.
''It's tough to admit that there might have to be a direction change, but being able to win in this city and see what it means not only to the fans, but to the organization, you see that they want to have it happen very quickly,'' Hamels said.
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