Halladay facing the unknown

BOB ELLIOTT, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:31 PM ET

PHILADELPHIA — He no longer lives downtown on the Lakeshore.

He misses going to Bardi’s Steak House, family trips, with his wife and two boys, to African Lion Safari (“we’d take a rental car, never our own,”), Canada’s Wonderland and the Great Wolf Lodge in Niagara Falls.

“And I miss the weather,” said Roy Halladay wearing a red Philadelphia Phillies cap, a red top and white pinstripes and red cleats, on a sticky 32C Pennsylvania Wednesday afternoon at Citizens Bank Park.

“In Toronto, it could get muggy, but we’d get that cool breeze off the lake.”

Not many spent their entire careers with one organization — Tony Gwynn in San Diego, Cal Ripken in Baltimore — Roy Halladay was supposed to be one for the Blue Jays.

Drafted in the first round by scouting director Bob Engle and scout Chris Bourjos in 1995, he pitched like a franchise player, but Jays fans, who had so much respect for Halladay, hoped to buy tickets to his final home start before retirement.

Halladay signed two contract extensions avoiding free agency, so the Jays could land free-agents A.J. Burnett and B.J. Ryan.

He was highly paid, but blue collar. He struggled with adversity — owning the highest ERA in 10 or more starts (10.64 in 2000) was sent to class-A Dunedin by GM Gord Ash and manager Buck Martinez — and battled his way back to win a Cy Young award.

He lived through the “we’re going to contend” seasons and at the 2008 all-star game compared it to “groundhog day” — but never ripped a teammate or management.

General manager Alex Anthopoulos dealt Halladay, with a year remaining on his contract, to the Phillies in December days after the winter meetings, winding up with three former No. 1 picks: First baseman Brett Wallace from the Oakland A’s; and Kyle Drabek and Travis D’Arnaud from the Phillies. The Jays sent Michael Taylor to Oakland for Wallace.

The timeline of how Halladay left pre-dates Anthopoulos. Former GM J.P. Ricciardi had Halladay on the trade market for 23 headline-grabbing days in July.

Paul Beeston’s November presidential visit to Halladay in Oldsmar, Fla. in was the date when there was no turning back.

“I didn’t tell Paul I didn’t want to come back,” Halladay said. “I said I didn’t want to sign long-term, keep my options open. I wanted a chance to win ...”

Halladay catches himself and adds: “basically I guess by me saying that, I was saying the same thing.”

Halladay’s thought process went like this. He asked himself what was going to be the biggest regret when his career was over. The fact that he never had won and stayed where he was comfortable because he refused to take on the unknown?

Halladay told Beeston

he didn’t want to go through a pre-deadline circus as he did leading to the July 31

deadline last year.

“I couldn’t go through that again, I’d stay the year and go to free agency,” Halladay said. “J.P. was always up-front with me. Extremely up-front. He took heat away from me. He was looking out for my best interests.”

What exactly is the unknown? For Halladay and his success, it was leaving relationships with trainer George Poulis, strength coach Bryan King and pitching coach Brad Arnsberg, who went to the Astros.

Halladay pitched for five managers and five pitching coaches in his 11 seasons.

“Having never switched organizations you wonder about your relationship with the trainer, strength coach and pitching coach,” Halladay said. “I can now say I have the same feeling here as I did in Toronto.”

Halladay says he hasn’t changed. He earned $14.25 million a year ago and $15.75 million this season. He signed a three-year $60-million extension, with an option for 2014 with the Phillies.

However, he has changed.

He made 287 starts (third behind Dave Stieb and Jim Clancy) for the Jays and had never thrown a perfect game. He did so in his 11th start with his new club: 27 up, 27 down against the Florida Marlins — the 20th ever.

“It was fun when it was going on, right from the first inning,” Halladay said. “Some days you have that kind of stuff, but something always happens. I enjoyed the whole process, but once it was over it was kind of anti-climatic.”

Afterwards he thought of his father, also named Roy, and countless hours playing catch. He thought of his Colorado pitching guru, the late Bus Campbell, who taught him as a teenager.

On weekends at the Rogers Centre, he and wife Brandy would host children from Sick Kids Hospital in a private box.

“Did you see him run over to that group of kids behind home plate at the end of batting practice?” Phillies broadcaster Gary Matthews, the Jays’ hitting coach in 1998-99, asked this week.

The kids were from a church foster-care program. They were on the field during the game and then headed to a box for food.

“Halladay hasn’t changed a bit. He shouldn’t be 8-6. We haven’t hit for him. We haven’t hit for anyone.

“Mike Schmidt and I were looking at numbers the other day. We haven’t hit so poorly since 1983, the year we went to the World Series.”

Looking ahead to Friday, who is Halladay’s best friend amongst Jays hitters?

“Probably Aaron Hill,”

Halladay said.

Has he thought about facing him for the first time?

“I faced him in Clear­water,” Halladay said, smiling.

In Clearwater, Jose Bautista doubled, Hill hit a two-run homer, Adam Lind and Edwin Encarnacion doubled and Alex Gonzalez singled.

Halladay won’t have Encarnacion to worry about Friday.

“Obviously, this is going to be different,” Halladay said. “We’ll go with our game plan.”

Originally, the Jays were supposed to play host to the Phillies.

“It would have been fun to go back,” he said, “in terms of from a media standpoint, it’s probably just as well the games are here.”

He says he didn’t read pre-season predictions where he would win 30 games in the weaker National League after being a success in the AL East.

“I’ve loved it so far. You’re used to doing the same thing year after year, this is like going to a different restaurant with all these new items on the menu,” Halladay said.

“My routine is the same, but I enjoy different cities — some we’d been to during interleague, but it’s three days and gone during interleague and you don’t go back for a few years.

“I’ve enjoyed hitting and bunting.”

Halladay says the Phillies are “a little more proven” than the Jays he left behind, having won the 2008 World Series and losing a year ago to the Yankees.

He has learned from Jamie Moyer, 47, about mechanics, pitch selection and setting up hitters. He had a similar relationship with Pat Hentgen, but now there is more give and take.

“I’m at a different point of my career,” he said, “with Pat it was basically shut up and listen. Not that Pat was that pushy, but I was learning, soaking everything up.”

The biggest difference between the Jays and the Phillies is the presence of Chase Utley, Halladay says.

“He’s the Derek Jeter of the NL, playing second,” Halladay said. “He leads this team, the way he prepares pre-game, he beats me to the field some days. He’s ready every at-bat. He’s ready to go every night at 6 o’clock.”

And Friday night at 7:05, Roy Halladay will be ready for his former team.

bob.elliott@sunmedia.ca


Photos