07/14/08 3:30 PM ET
Halladay eager to help AL out of 'pen
Blue Jays veteran workhorse not accustomed to short stints
By Jon Blau / MLB.com
The bullpen is an unfamiliar location for a starting pitcher, especially the Blue Jays' ace, who was in the running to start the 79th All-Star Game on Tuesday at Yankee Stadium. The Indians' Cliff Lee got the nod from American League manager Terry Francona, forcing Halladay to wait a bit longer to stifle National League batters.
And at this venue, games already tend to drag on a little more than an anxious arm would like.
"It seems like every game at Yankee Stadium takes four hours," Halladay joked.
"It's an honor to be here," he added, pointing out that it doesn't matter what inning starts his All-Star experience. "It's really something. I didn't think about [starting], to be honest. It's always just an honor to be here."
What makes the five-time All-Star so special, too, is that he goes deep into nearly every game he pitches. He leads the AL in innings (146 1/3) and complete games (seven). So whether it's the first or the fourth or the ninth inning, opposing teams almost always see him out there, and the NL can anticipate facing Halladay in almost any inning of the All-Star Game. The only exception will be the first and the ninth -- the latter being a decision between the Yankees' Mariano Rivera and the Red Sox's Jonathan Papelbon.
One of the game's most dominant pitchers, Halladay has an 11-6 record and a 2.71 ERA this season, and his strikeout-to-walk ration of 121-to-22 is one of the best in the Majors.
"Turbo sinker," said Tampa Bay rookie All-Star Evan Longoria, who in his short career already marvels at the mid-90s breaking pitch that makes Halladay such a menacing opponent. He also raved about Halladay's whipping slider, which throws hitters off the big sinker.
"And he's a workhorse -- you know he's going to be out there eight innings on every start," the Rays' third baseman said. "If you are hoping you are not going to get that third at-bat versus him, you better change your mind."
Now in the bullpen to begin the game, Halladay will not join David Wells (2000) and Dave Stieb (1983-84) as the only Blue Jays to start the All-Star Game.
But that doesn't take away from his presence of "Doc" in any inning.
"Doc could pitch any time -- in any era," Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston said recently. "In the '70s, '80s, '90s, 2000s. Doc is a Hall of Fame-type pitcher. If he can continue to stay healthy, I'm pretty sure he'll be there one of these days."
This experience will put Halladay in the presence of many potential future Hall of Famers, as well, in his AL counterparts. Even if the Blue Jays have not been a position to make use of the home-field advantage that comes with winning the All-Star Game, Halladay will make it a priority to help out the American League.
For a few days -- a few innings -- he'll be friendly to AL batters. Then, it's back to business as usual.
"For two days, you kind of let your guard down," Halladay said. "After that, you try and turn the page and try not to like them again."
Jon Blau is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.