- Jayson Stark, Senior Writer, ESPN.com
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CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Roy Halladay said he felt great. The results said otherwise.
Pitching in a minor league spring training game Saturday morning, Halladay retired only seven of the 18 hitters he faced in a four-inning start against the Toronto Blue Jays' Triple-A team from Buffalo. Afterward, the Philadelphia Phillies ace declared himself "ready" for the season.
"I felt strong. I was surprised," Halladay said, after his first outing since leaving a start six days earlier against Baltimore because of a stomach virus. "I thought I was going to be a little wobbly, leg-wise and stuff. But I felt good. I felt like I could have easily thrown 100-plus pitches. So from that standpoint, I'm pretty happy. Arm felt great. No soreness. I don't think I'm going to feel sore tomorrow. And I felt like my stamina was there."
Halladay is still scheduled to start the Phillies' second game of the regular season, April 3, in Atlanta. He said that based on how he felt Saturday, he saw no reason to alter that schedule.
"I feel like I'm ready," he said. "I feel like, physically, I'm ready. It's just a matter of getting the pitches and getting out [there]."
For the fourth straight start, Halladay's fastball velocity was lower than in his Cy Young heyday. He averaged 86-to-89 miles per hour, reaching 90 on just one pitch in the first inning.
He also struggled with his command, throwing a first-pitch strike to only eight of the 18 hitters he faced. He walked two hitters, hit another and allowed seven hits -- four singles and three doubles. He escaped trouble in all four innings he pitched, with help from three double-play balls and from his catcher, Carlos Ruiz, who threw out a runner trying to steal second.
Halladay needed 27 pitches to get through the first inning, allowing one run on two doubles, two walks and a hit batter. He still had the bases loaded and two outs, when Phillies pitching coach Rich Dubee asked the umpires to end the inning.
Halladay allowed two more runs in the third inning, on Mike McCoy's second double of the game, his own errant throw after fielding a bunt, Moises Sierra's RBI single and a run-scoring double-play ground ball.
He also gave up hits to the first two hitters in the fourth inning, but got through the inning unscathed, thanks to his only strikeout of the day (a called third strike to outfielder Jacob Anderson) and a line-drive double play.
In all, Halladay threw 81 pitches and induced the Blue Jays to swing and miss only three of them -- all the misses coming on offspeed throws. Nevertheless, the 35-year-old right-hander was upbeat afterward.
"You know, for me, a lot of it changes when you start going through scouting reports. And in spring training, you never do that," he said. "And I believe that is one of the biggest reasons for my success, is being able to look at lineups and find out where I can and can't go, what I can and can't do. So to me, that's a huge difference. Once we're going to start doing that, it makes a big difference. But I feel good physically."
"If I would have gone out there today and felt lethargic, tired, really felt like I was laboring, I would have felt a little bit concerned," he went on. "But I felt good. I didn't feel like I was laboring at all. So that was good."
Halladay has a 6.75 ERA and a 1.67 WHIP in his five "official" spring starts. Counting his minor league appearance Saturday, he has allowed 14 hits, seven walks and 10 runs in only 7.2 innings over his past three starts. He has one spring start remaining, next Thursday against Toronto.
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