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New Philadelphia Phillies ace Roy Halladay hoping for first career postseason appearance

Roy Halladay begins his first year with the two-time NL champs after 12 years and no playoff berths with the Jays.

Associated Press

Roy Halladay begins his first year with the two-time NL champs after 12 years and no playoff berths with the Jays.

CLEARWATER — There may be many changes in Roy Halladay's world this spring, with arguably the best pitcher in baseball in Phillies red after 12 seasons in Toronto.

There are the new faces, from trainers to teammates, and the new route to work from his Oldsmar home to Bright House Field, which sits about 5 miles away from the Blue Jays complex.

"I used to turn right on Main Street," he said, smiling. "Now I just go straight."

But for Halladay, 32, acquired in a December trade, the change he's most excited about is where his year could end as he hopes to lead the two-time defending National League champions to a place he has never been.

"Postseason," he said. "For me that's the ultimate. Obviously there's no guarantee, but that's the driving force for me right now and the biggest reason. It was never about changing teammates, changing environments, changing cities. It was about wanting to pitch in October."

To get there, Halladay — a creature of habit — has kept most everything else the same. There's his legendary work ethic; he has been working out at the Clearwater complex since December, showing up before the sun rises and smiling as young teammates try to beat him there. "He's the hardest-working guy I've seen, by far," pitcher Kyle Kendrick said.

There are his personal goals, which don't involve numbers, but have resulted in consistency; since 2002, Halladay leads the majors in wins (130), complete games (46) and shutouts (13).

And there's the comfort and confidence his presence atop the rotation gives his team, one he appears to fit like a glove.

"We like just good ol' country-hardball players," Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said. "When we come to the ballpark, we look for guys to play, and Roy sets that example. He's proven in the past he'll take the ball; he'll take the ball in relief, he'll take the ball every third day or whatever, pitch on short rest.

"He's a top pitcher in the game right now. … He fills out our rotation and gives us a big horse at the top."

The Phillies have admired him for a while, having tried to acquire him before last summer's trade deadline. The feeling was mutual: Halladay remembers sitting in the opposing dugout at Philadelphia's sold-out Citizens Bank Park as a Jay the past couple of years, wondering "what it'd be like going on the other side."

When the trade didn't work out, Halladay had to watch as his good buddy and former Jays teammate A.J. Burnett help the Yankees beat Philadelphia in the World Series.

After the season, Halladay said he appreciated the fact the Jays put his interests first in trading him to the Phillies in a three-team deal, which also sent Philadelphia's 2009 playoff ace, Cliff Lee, to the Mariners. Halladay said he feels no more pressure in Philly, and though he understands the inevitable comparisons he'll get this season with Lee — who went 4-0 with a 1.56 ERA in five postseason starts last fall — he's not worried about it.

Halladay always has let his pitching do the talking, with his teammates attesting he does very little of the latter. Said Halladay, "I think it's a Lou Holtz quote: 'Well done' is always more important than 'Well said.' "

Actually, those were Benjamin Franklin's words, but cut him some slack. If he does his job and pitches in October for the first time, he'll likely receive the same warm reception from Philadelphia fans he got after being put on the JumboTron at a 76ers NBA game after the trade.

If not, Halladay is aware the team's fans aren't afraid to boo the Phillies' biggest stars when they don't hold up their end.

It wouldn't be the first time for Halladay, although at a much different scale than in Toronto.

"I don't know what's worse, 40,000, or five guys and you can actually hear the cuss words," Halladay said.

"It's a challenge. They expect to have a good team and they expect people to perform, and I expect the same thing."

Joe Smith can be reached at joesmith@sptimes.com

New Philadelphia Phillies ace Roy Halladay hoping for first career postseason appearance 02/20/10 [Last modified: Saturday, February 20, 2010 8:05pm]
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