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Doc needs Rx for poor start

Halladay and Phillies simply not doing the expected: win

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Roy HALLADAY has extraordinary perspective on many things.

He knows what it is like to fail to the point of exile. He learned the hard way in his early 20s, with the help of his late mentor Harvey Dorfman, how to pick up the pieces and narrow his thoughts to only the most relevant things about being an elite big-league pitcher.

That's why there should be little concern about whether Halladay will bounce back from a 2012 start that has been mostly pedestrian by his high standards.

"I do everything to get myself ready and accept the results," Halladay said. "That's all you really can do, and I've continued to do that and will continue to do that going forward. I'm not concerned. I feel like I know how to overcome it and I think we do as a team, too. I think when you start getting concerned, it adds a whole element you really don't need."

Halladay spoke those words in a quiet Phillies clubhouse Tuesday night after the team had lost its fourth straight, partly because he surrendered five runs in the first four innings to the Washington Nationals.

The 4-4 record and 3.58 ERA next to Halladay's name going into today's start against the St. Louis Cardinals at Busch Stadium seem so out of place. He had a 2.21 ERA after 10 starts a year ago and a 2.22 ERA after 10 starts in 2010.

The team is 4-6 in his starts, which is also unfathomable. The Phillies lost only eight of Halladay's 32 starts a year ago.

Perhaps the best indicator that the Phillies can overcome their mediocre start is the fact that they are a combined 6-11 in starts made by Halladay and Cliff Lee, the foundation of what is supposed to be the best starting rotation in baseball.

Before this season, the Phillies were 84-37 in games started by Halladay and Lee, including an 8-3 mark in the pressure-packed world of post-season games.

Given that knowledge, there is every reason to believe things will get better for those two as the season heads into its third month.

Halladay also has perspective on mediocre and bad baseball teams, because that's mostly what he played for during his time with the Toronto Blue Jays. He knows what it's like to have false hope in April and no hope in September.

He does not believe that is what this Phillies team has become.

"No," he said. "Honestly, we have so many guys who care and want to win and feel like we can win that it's completely different. When you're on teams that aren't playing well and don't expect to play well, that's tough. (Losing) doesn't seem to affect them as much. That's a different situation than we have here."

The Toronto teams Halladay played for never came close to sniffing the post-season. Even when they were pretty good, they were not nearly good enough to contend with the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox.

The Phillies, on the other hand, have won five straight division titles and expect to win again. The four-game deficit they faced in the National League East heading into Saturday night's game in St. Louis validated the fact that the Atlanta Braves, Washington Nationals, and Miami Marlins are not on the same level as the Yankees and Red Sox teams that Halladay's Toronto squad could never overcome.

The Phillies, of course, are also not the same team that has reeled off five straight division titles. They are not even close to being the team whose sluggers used to intimidate opponents.

With Ryan Howard and Chase Utley absent from the lineup and manager Charlie Manuel constantly working on his juggling act, Halladay and Lee must privately wonder whatever happened to the Phillies team they couldn't wait to join.

Publicly, however, they have both accepted blame for the team's pre-Memorial Day problems.

Halladay was calm, thoughtful, and encouraging after the Phillies lost their fourth straight Tuesday. He revealed a vocal leadership side that we have rarely seen in the star right-hander's three seasons here.

"We have such a good team that I think we do press more than other places I've been," he said. "I think a lot of us need to just go out and play the game and have fun playing the game. You start pressing and doing things you don't need to do and it makes things worse.

"It's tough to do in places like this, where the fans expect a lot, the media expects a lot, and the players expect a lot. But I think it's important to try to keep that in mind and play that way regardless of your own expectations and everyone else's. You prepare as well as you can and you go out and let it all hang out."

That's the approach Halladay has taken ever since being demoted by the Blue Jays more than a decade ago, and if he suggests his teammates follow his cue, they should definitely listen.

-- The Philadelphia Inquirer



Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 27, 2012 B5

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