Cracks in Roy's armour

BOB ELLIOTT, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:27 PM ET

CLEARWATER, Fla. — The Machine actually speaks on days he pitches.

Even on days when The Machine is not operating on all cylinders.

“Have a good season, V,” Philadelphia Phillies right-hander Roy Halladay said softly to Vernon Wells as the Blue Jays batter jogged back to the first base dugout at Bright House Field after flying out to right against him in the third inning on Wednesday afternoon.

Outside of his whisper to Wells, Halladay, a first-round selection by Jays scouting director Bob Engle in 1995, was all business in his first outing against his old team.

Halladay went 148-76 (a .661 winning percentage) in 12 seasons with the Jays. He had a robotic work ethic, arriving at 5:30 a.m., in spring training, seldom speaking to teammates on game days and never, ever, fraternizing with the opposition, even if he bumped into them at a restaurant. He was old-school.

Five of the first seven Jays had base hits in a four-run first against Halladay on Wednesday. And now he was talking to Wells from the mound?

“He can be one of us when he wants to be,” Wells said after making the three-mile drive north back to the Dunedin clubhouse. “Over the years, he has learned to relax a little more, let his guard down. He can tell a joke. We grew up in the organization together, our relationship is deeper than most.”

Aaron Hill said Halladay didn’t send any good-luck wishes his way. Of course, Hill followed Jose Bautista’s leadoff double, with a two-run homer to left.

Nor did he say anything to Adam Lind who followed with a double to right.

Edwin Encarnacion hit a two-out, run-scoring double and Alex Gonzalez a run-scoring single.

“I knew what he was going to try to do to me,” Hill said. “One thing I always liked about (Halladay) was the way he worked fast.”

The four-run first helped the Jays to a 5-2 win and put

everyone in good spirits as they headed to Wednesday night’s annual team dinner/pep talk before a spirit or two at the Bon Appetite restaurant.

Lind even had his sports coat back from the cleaners.

“Did we win the trade? Maybe, short-term,” Lind said jokingly. “I thought he looked a lot thinner than normal. Maybe it was because he was wearing red.”

Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos sent Halladay to Philadelphia in December and wound up with first baseman Brett Wallace (from the Oakland A’s), right-hander Kyle Drabek and catcher Travis D’Arnaud.

Big-shooters Nadir Mohamed, president and CEO of Rogers Communications Inc., and Jays boss Paul Beeston were in town on Wednesday and what better way to begin the day than with a win over Doc and the Phillies.

Hopefully, no one reminded the brass that it is paying

$6 million US on Halladay’s $15.75-million US deal.

“He looked a little off in the first and left the ball over the plate to Bautista,” manager Cito Gaston said.

“But after that ...”

After that, he struck out Jose Molina to end the first, then opposing pitcher Brett Cecil, Bautista and Hill in the second.

“Just another pitcher. Sinker, slider,” deadpanned Lyle Overbay, who flew out to centre in the first.

There was some smiling from the mound late in the game when Phillies’ Chris Kissock, of Fruitvale, B.C., got his pal Adam Loewen of Surrey, B.C., to fly out to centre.

Halladay’s final start lasted three innings. He will throw in the Phillies opener in Washington on Monday.

“I respect everyone over there,” Halladay told reporters. “There’s a time for that in the off-season. I wanted to pitch and focus on that as much as I could.”

Halladay said he wasn’t aggressive enough in the first.

“The hard part later in spring is you anticipate what’s to come, you get a little stale,” Halladay said.

He won’t be stale on Monday.

bob.elliott@sunmedia.ca


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