07/12/10 8:00 PM ET
Doc, Howard soaking in All-Star experience
Ace righty believes Phillies are ready to take off in second half
By Todd Zolecki / MLB.com
His expectations have not changed.
In fact, Halladay, who joined teammate Ryan Howard at the National League All-Star media availability Monday, said the team's four-game sweep of the Cincinnati Reds before the break has him feeling pretty good about the second half.
"I thought it was huge," Halladay said. "The Braves came in [last week]. We felt like we started things the right way [with a victory]. Losing two games there was tough. But it's not just so much winning the four games, but how we won them. The second night, coming back from six runs in the ninth inning, those are the kind of games that get things rolling for the rest of the season. To me, those were huge, winning three walk-offs and winning 1-0 the last day to finish the sweep -- it's a big confidence booster for everybody."
Halladay and Howard expected to join Chase Utley at Tuesday's All-Star Game at Angel Stadium, but Utley is home, recuperating from surgery to repair a torn ligament in his right thumb. If everything goes perfectly, Utley could rejoin the lineup before September.
But until then, the Phillies must play without him.
It will not be easy.
"You just want Chase to get better," Howard said. "You know he's going to try to get back as fast as he can."
He will, but Halladay said it will help just to have Utley in the clubhouse. Utley might be the most respected Phillies player because of his work ethic.
Maybe nobody other than Halladay works harder at his craft.
"He has more of an impact in the clubhouse and on the way guys play," Halladay said. "He's a leader by example. I think when he goes out and plays the game the way he plays it, I think other guys want to do the same. Obviously, missing him on the field is a huge part. He's extremely talented. The numbers he's put up are pretty impressive.
"But I think as long as we can keep him around the team, I think that's a huge part of why the team has been successful. I think he's something that you keep part of in the clubhouse. I think his presence is still going to help, but being on the field would be even better."
Besides Utley, most everybody should be healthy before the end of the month. Placido Polanco, who is on the disabled list with inflammation in his left elbow, could rejoin the team as early as this weekend in Chicago. J.A. Happ could be back, if he shows improvement in Triple-A Lehigh Valley. Chad Durbin and Antonio Bastardo also are making progress.
If the Phillies get healthy, they will have history working with them. Since Charlie Manuel became the manager in 2005, the Phillies are a second-half team. They were 229-217 (.513) before the All-Star break from 2005-09, which ranked 11th in baseball. They were 218-146 (.599) after the break, which ranked third in baseball and first in the NL.
But until the second half begins Thursday, Howard and Halladay hope to enjoy themselves in Anaheim.
Manuel named Howard his designated hitter. He will hit fourth.
Manuel said Halladay could pitch an inning. Halladay leads the NL with 148 innings pitched, seven complete games and three shutouts. He could use a break, but the Phillies will give Halladay that break with the way they have set up their rotation to start the second half. He last pitched Saturday against the Reds. He will not pitch again until Sunday against the Cubs at Wrigley Field.
The Phillies will open the second half with Jamie Moyer pitching Thursday, Joe Blanton pitching Friday, Cole Hamels pitching Saturday and Halladay pitching Sunday.
That will give Halladay even more of an opportunity to enjoy himself this week. He had a much different experience last year, when reporters crowded around him as his name swirled in trade rumors.
"It's nice," Halladay said. "It's really been very relieving for me. Last year almost became more of a press conference than an All-Star Game. That part was hard for me. I'm looking forward to having the focus on the game and enjoying it."
Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.