Halladay rolls a seven

MIKE RUTSEY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 2:10 PM ET

Roy Halladay takes the mound tonight against the Detroit Tigers for what will be his seventh consecutive opening-day start.

The question is, will it be his final one in a Blue Jays uniform?

With the team in a reloading, rebuilding, retooling -- take your pick -- mode and Halladay not signed beyond the 2010 season, the rising speculation is that the veteran right-hander may seek greener pastures and may ask to be moved or be shopped by the Jays this season in the weeks leading up to the July 31 trade deadline.

There is a lot of uncertainty surrounding the 2009 Jays starting at the top and just who Paul Beeston will pick as his replacement down to the young starting staff to rookie left fielder Travis Snider.

Halladay, though, is by far their best player and the face of the franchise.

Loyal almost to a fault, Halladay is nonetheless prepared for what promises to be a season unlike any he has encountered in the past.

No matter which way he turns, major distractions will loom be it questions about his contract status to trade speculation. That's not the way he likes it but like always, Halladay is fully prepared.

Yesterday he said the club has yet to approach him about a contract extension and there will be no talks, at least not started by him, during the course of the season.

"I just feel that for me it's a distraction that I don't need," Halladay said. "It would be something that I'd prefer to wait until the off-season. But again, circumstances can change and there's no guarantee what direction the team wants to go and what direction we may have to go.

"For me, it's a long ways down the road and something I prefer to do outside the season."

As far as getting a chance to pitch in the post-season and having that opportunity be with the Jays, Halladay is for the first time giving hints, entertaining the thought, that it just won't happen here.

"I understand it's a constant uphill battle and sometimes things just have to go right," he said of being with a winning team. "You look at Tampa, they had some unexpected things go right for them. So I don't think you grow impatient with people trying to put a team together, you realize how hard it is.

"It definitely gets harder and harder each year knowing your career is not going to last forever and you want to get that chance before long."

Although it would be hard to imagine Halladay asking to be traded to a contender, at the same time he understands why players go down that road and he doesn't consider them to be selfish for doing so.

"I think there's times when guys probably feel like they have to," he said. "I'm definitely understanding of that. I think the older you get, the longer you play, you realize how hard it is to get those chances and I think you have to start pursuing it. So I don't think it's a selfish thing.

"For me, I still feel like it's a different situation. I'm still under contract for two years and unless you force something and create a big stir it's not even an option for me.

"I'm still happy here. I still feel like we have a chance to win here and that would be my ultimate goal, to win a World Series here more than anywhere else. It would be nice to win one but it would be ideal to do it here."

On that note, Halladay maintains that the 2009 Jays aren't out of it -- some may call him delusional.

"I talked to J.P. (Ricciardi, the Jays general manager) right around the winter meetings," he said. "My biggest question was: 'What kind of process is this?' They assured me from that point it's not a total overhaul and I think that's important."

So far, Ricciardi's words have been backed up by what Halladay perceives as a load of young talent.

"I like the young guys that I've seen," he said. "Moving forward we're going to be able to add to those young guys.

"I was more impressed than I thought I would be in spring training with some of the young guys, the (Brad) Mills and the (Ricky) Romeros and the Brett Cecils."

Whether that promise translates into a winning season remains to be seen.

How long Halladay remains a part of it is the bigger question.


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