Halladay eager to go

MIKE RUTSEY -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:44 AM ET

DUNEDIN, Fla. -- Roy Halladay's done like dinner.

Done with spring training that is.

Halladay, the 'ace' of the Blue Jays staff, made his final spring tuneup yesterday in a triple-A game against Durham, an affiliate of the Devil Rays. Not a bad day at the office either -- seven shutout innings, four hits, two walks and nine strikeouts. He also ran his pitch count up to 98, right on schedule.

Next stop is his fifth consecutive opening day assignment, which will be against the Tigers in Detroit on Monday.

Thanks to a revamped program that dramatically reduced the number of cut fastballs he threw this spring combined with an emphasis on throwing mostly fastballs and changeups -- to both sides of the plate -- Halladay believes he's entering the 2007 season in the best shape he has ever been.

"I really felt like I was working on things from the get-go," Halladay said of how this spring was different from past years. "In the past it was more getting myself ready for a game.

"I know this was a longer process and I had a lot better idea of what I wanted to do and how I was going to go about it as opposed to just going out there and pitching like I would be in a regular game."

He said switching approaches wasn't problematic.

"Actually I think it helped me be more conscious of what you're working on that day and what your goal was for that day," he said. "It was a lot easier. The first couple of times out I was happy with the way different things were going so it made it a lot easier to stick with it as the course of spring training went on."

The benefits have been both physical and mental and taken together have, hopefully from the Jays perspective, made him a more complete and dangerous starter.

"Physically, no question," he said. "Mentally, I'm happy with the things we did. They're a lot of things that I really was hesitant to try in the past. We just decided we were going to do it and I'm happy with the way it turned out."

Specifically, Halladay was talking about command of his two-seam fastball and changeup. Where once he paid lip service to improvement in both areas, he would easily lose confidence in the execution.

"I'm confident in using those pitches in any situation and I'm really glad we did it," Halladay said. "We stuck to our plan a lot better than I have in the past.

"Even backing off cutters (which he pounds inside against left-handed hitters). I feel comfortable doing that where I had concerns early on getting to the other side of the plate, not doing it with my cutter. So, I'm pretty happy with the way it turned out."

The cutter, of course, is the pitch whose over-dependance last season irritated his forearm and twice forced him to miss starts.

"I feel that the two-seam on the other side of the plate at times has been a lot better than the cutter so there's situations where I feel it's a better choice of pitch," he said of the level of confidence he has with his re-vamped arsenal.

The cutter, though, is not in the trash can. It's still there and highly effective.

"In an average game, I probably threw 30," he said of past use. "Now, probably 20.

"But the biggest difference is that (this spring) I only threw it in two games as opposed to throwing 15 the very first time I stepped on the mound."

For Halladay, the 2007 season can't start soon enough.


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