A celebration of life: Thank you, Roy Halladay

A celebration of life: Thank you, Roy Halladay

CLEARWATER, Fla. — Jimmy Rollins called it a reunion of the most unfortunate kind.

On the very field where he made his memorable Phillies debut in March 2010, Roy Halladay, the pitcher, the man, the teammate, the husband and the father, was remembered Tuesday evening in a moving celebration of life at Spectrum Field a week after he died in a plane crash just a few miles away in the Gulf of Mexico.

Family, friends, fans, former teammates and the young players he coached on two travel teams and down the street at Calvary Christian High School sat in the stands from dugout to dugout — the turnout was estimated at 2,000 — and listened to emotional and heartfelt remembrances from those who knew Halladay best.

Nine people spoke and that was fitting.

Doc always wanted to go the distance.

Chase Utley, a teammate who won Halladay's respect because the two men shared an intense work ethic and competitive spirit, was one of the speakers. He told the story about showing up the first day of spring training at 5:45 a.m., wanting to be the first one through the door so he could send the right message to his teammates, and much to his surprise finding a sweat-soaked Halladay eating breakfast. Halladay had already completed a pre-dawn workout, which, of course, would be followed by the regular team workout a few hours later.

"I knew then and there, this guy was the real deal," Utley said.

Utley spoke from a stage just behind the pitcher's mound. The stage was adorned with flowered numbers — a red 34 for Halladay's time in Philadelphia, a blue 32 for his time in Toronto — and pictures of the future Hall of Famer in both teams' uniforms. Utley closed his remarks by looking out in front of the stage, where Halladay's wife, Brandy, and the couple's two sons, Braden, 17, and Ryan, 13, sat.

"Your dad ...," Utley said.

The stoic second baseman paused and became emotional.

"... was the best teammate I ever played with and the most fierce competitor I've ever seen. I'm sure all your lives you've heard people praise your dad and tell you how proud they were of him. But in the conversations I've had with him, he was more proud of what you guys have accomplished than what he ever accomplished on the field.

"Brandy, Braden and Ryan, thank you for sharing him with us."

Later, after the tribute, Utley talked about speaking directly to the two Halladay boys.

"That was probably the hardest part," he said. "I have two boys myself. It really hit home.

"Roy meant so much to me. He affected me. He made me better as I have evolved as a player and a person."

Braden and Ryan are both young baseball talents. Former Phillies manager Charlie Manuel was one of the speakers and he, too, spoke directly to the boys, promising to peek in on their games.

Manuel also recalled managing the National League All-Star team in 2009 and meeting Halladay, the American League All-Star starter that summer. By that time, the Phillies had already had their eyes on Halladay, hoping to swing a trade with the Blue Jays for him.

"You’d look good in a Phillies uniform," Manuel told Halladay that day.

Halladay was in a Phillies uniform the following spring. He made his spring training debut on March 4, 2010, and pitched two perfect innings with three strikeouts against the New York Yankees. Just three of the 24 pitches he threw that day were balls.


Halladay went on to pitch a perfect game, a playoff no-hitter and win the NL Cy Young award that season. He finished second in the Cy Young race the following season and helped the Phillies win 102 games. His final two seasons with the club were marred by back and shoulder injuries that ended his career.

Halladay pitched his heart out in an excruciating 1-0 playoff loss against St. Louis that ended the Phillies' 102-win season in 2011. He pitched that game against another big, right-hander, Chris Carpenter. The two were former teammates with the Blue Jays, best friends and fishing buddies. Carpenter was one of the speakers Tuesday and he made you laugh and cry.

"Doc texted me after Game 5," Carpenter said. "I was on the bus. He was in front of his locker. There he was, he'd just pitched his heart out and he wanted to congratulate me and wish me luck the rest of the way. He also said, 'I'm looking forward to our fishing trip in Brazil.'"

Carpenter told of how, as young, aspiring players, he and Halladay would fish late at night during spring training and fantasize about one day being as good as Roger Clemens and Pat Hentgen. He talked about fishing trips to South America, how Halladay would bring his glove so he could get his offseason throwing in, and how, on a 100-degree day, Halladay took a dip in the piranha-infested Amazon River.

"Dude, get back in the boat, you’re going to get eaten by something," Carpenter recalled telling a backstroking Halladay.

Carpenter also got to the core of Halladay — the determination, the drive, the persistence — when he talked of his friend's early-career struggles and the demotion from the majors all the way to Single A. That event was the watershed moment in Halladay's career. He changed his pitching mechanics and found a new mindset thanks to his work with sports psychologist Harvey Dorfman.

"When he came back, you could see it in his face and his body language that he was going to dominate," Carpenter said. "He said he would never be that bad again and he became the best of our generation."

Phillies owner John Middleton spoke and said that Halladay transcended sports.

"Knowing Roy is one of the great privileges in my life," Middleton said. "The man made the ballplayer, not the other way around. We all wanted to win for Doc. No one wanted to let him down because we always knew Doc would never let us down."

Dozens of former teammates and officials from two teams were on hand for the tribute. Cliff Lee, Kyle Kendrick, Cole Hamels, Shane Victorino, Ruben Amaro, Rich Dubee, Pat Gillick, David Montgomery, Jose Bautista, Cito Gaston, Brad Lidge and Raul Ibanez were there. Scott Rolen, a Phillie who became a teammate of Halladay's in Toronto, was there. Carlos Ruiz, Halladay's beloved catcher was there. He cried as he spoke about learning of his friend's death.

"Doc will always be in my heart," Ruiz said after the tribute.

George Poulis, the legendary Blue Jays athletic trainer who stretched Halladay's arm before starts, told of a pre-start routine the two shared.

"Before he'd head out to warm up, I'd say, 'Doc, have a good one,'" Poulis said. "If I got distracted working on another player, he would stand there until I said those words."

Poulis paused, fighting back emotion.

"Doc, have a good one," he said. "I will miss you from the bottom of my heart."

Halladay's dad, Roy, spoke beautifully about his son. Brandy spoke for 18 heartbreaking minutes about her husband and how she beat him in billiards on their first date and ping-pong on their second.

"Roy Halladay does not like to lose," she said, a hint of a smile breaking through the tears.

Brandy Halladay urged the mourners to take nothing for granted and to hug their family members tightly. A few minutes later, she looked down at her two sons and spoke of their dad.

"I still get to see him every day because I look at you," she said.

Vince Nauss of Baseball Chapel concluded the tribute with some beautiful words. He also spoke at the celebration of Dallas Green's life back in March. He's one of the best.

Rollins was right, with so many former teammates, coaches and officials from the Phillies on hand, it was like a reunion, albeit a very sad one.

Moments after the tribute concluded, Rollins spoke of learning of Halladay's death in a text message from Ryan Howard, who was also on hand for the service. Rollins grieved and tried to come to terms with the news until finally going to bed at about 1 o'clock that night. His said his wife, Johari, was a little too far over on his side of the bed and gave him a little kick as if to say, "Move over." Jimmy said he wasn't going to move over, not on that night. He felt compelled to move closer to his wife and give her a hug.

"Like Brandy said, hug your family a little tighter," Rollins said.

Jake Arrieta delights crowd, breaks bats

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Jake Arrieta delights crowd, breaks bats

CLEARWATER, Fla. – Spectrum Field was sold out, filled with fans clad in green and smeared with sunblock for a game against the Atlanta Braves on a festive St. Paddy’s Day.
But the main event Saturday took place several hundred yards away at the minor-league complex, two hours before the big-league game even began.
Five days after signing a three-year, $75 million contract with the Phillies, Jake Arrieta climbed atop a mound and threw a 31-pitch (two-inning) simulated game. Scott Kingery, Jorge Alfaro, Logan Moore and Andrew Pullin were the hitters. Andrew Knapp was the catcher. Players, coaches, minor-league instructors and manager Gabe Kapler all peeked in. Dozens of fans hugged the chain-link fence to get a look at the newest Phillie. They applauded when Arrieta took the mound and again when he finished.
“It was great,” the 32-year-old pitcher said moments after the workout ended. “There’s a lot of people out here. A lot of people are excited for the Phillies in 2018. We’ve got a lot of good things going on here. A lot of guys are healthy and competing, there’s a lot of youth. It’s a really fun time to be in this organization.”
Arrieta said he felt “really good physically,” not a surprise because he came into camp in terrific shape and had gotten to over 60 pitches in bullpen sessions back home in Austin, Texas. He threw all his pitches, including a couple of knee-buckling curveballs. He broke two of Alfaro’s bats, one with a sinker, one with a cutter.
“My goal was to throw everything in the arsenal for strikes and throw my off-speed pitches in and out of the zone where I could get some chases,” Arrieta said.
Arrieta did allow some contact, mostly ground balls.
Arrieta won the 2015 NL Cy Young Award with the Cubs. He won 22 games and had a 1.77 ERA that season.
A deceptive delivery is one of Arrieta’s strengths. He throws across his body and that crossfire action makes it difficult for a hitter to pick up the ball.
“It’s extremely deceptive,” Kingery said. “Every pitch is extremely deceptive. That’s what hit me. His curveball looks like it’s coming at your head then it drops.”
Arrieta is still hoping to be ready for the first week of the regular season, but the Phillies have not formulated a firm game plan. One thing is certain: They won’t rush him. They want him for the long haul. They could hold him back 10 days or so, allowing him to build more arm strength, and he’d still make 30 starts.
Arrieta expects to throw a bullpen session in the next day or two and try to get up around 60 pitches in his next outing. That could be in a minor-league game or in another simulated game.
“As long as we continue to get my pitch count up, I think I’ll be fine going into the season,” he said.

Alex Cobb? Matt Klentak discusses replacing Jerad Eickhoff

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Alex Cobb? Matt Klentak discusses replacing Jerad Eickhoff

CLEARWATER, Fla. — The Phillies signed free-agent right-hander Jake Arrieta earlier this week.

That's probably going to be the extent of their pitching additions for now.

Jerad Eickhoff is out until at least May with a strained right lat muscle and that creates a sizable hole in the Phillies rotation.

The hole is likely to be filled internally, according to general manager Matt Klentak. The team is not likely to make a run at Alex Cobb, who remains on the free-agent market.

"I doubt it," Klentak said when asked if he would look outside the organization to fill Eickhoff's spot. "I don't think we have to. I think a lot of our guys have shown very well in camp. They have gotten their pitch counts up, they're getting to the point of being fully stretched out.

"More than anything, I think we're going to have some tough decisions on figuring out who is in the rotation, who is in the bullpen, who goes into the Triple-A rotation, who goes into the Double-A rotation. We've got a lot of tough decisions to make on that front, but I don't think we're in a position where we have to go outside. We have a lot of candidates to take the ball at the big league level so we'll be fine."

Aaron Nola will start on opening day. Arrieta will be in the rotation, though he might need an extra week or so to get ready. Vince Velasquez and Nick Pivetta are likely to hold down spots. That leaves Zach Eflin, Ben Lively, Mark Leiter Jr., Jake Thompson, Drew Hutchison and Tom Eshelman in the running for the final spot in the five-man rotation. Eshelman, strike-thrower extraordinaire, was the Phillies' minor-league pitcher of the year last year and projects to be in Philadelphia before long. However, it might not be at the outset of the season because he is not on the 40-man roster. Neither is Hutchison.

The Phillies do not need a fifth starter until April 11 so they could employ some creative roster construction until then. They could go with four starters and an extra reliever or bench man. Or they could bring an extra starter and "piggyback" him with Arrieta, a move that would allow Arrieta to make an abbreviated start during the first week of the season.

"There's a decent chance we open the season with somewhat of a non-traditional 25-man roster, not because we're trying to be cute but because we don't need the fifth starter until the 11th," Klentak said. "We're going to do whatever puts us in the best position to win those first 10 days of the season."

The Phillies made one transaction on Friday. They added utility man Pedro Florimon to the 40-man roster. He had a provision in his minor-league contract that allowed him to become a free agent if he wasn't on the 40-man roster by March 15. Florimon is a candidate for a spot on the Phillies' bench. The move doesn't guarantee that Florimon will win a spot, but it gives the team more time to evaluate him. To make room for Florimon, the Phillies designated infielder Eliezer Alvarez for assignment.

Florimon homered in the Phillies' 6-4 loss to Toronto in Clearwater Friday. Cam Rupp and Cesar Hernandez also homered. Velasquez gave up five hits and a run in 2⅔ innings. He struck out five.

In Lakeland, Pivetta allowed two runs over five innings as the Phils and Tigers played to a 6-6 tie. J.P. Crawford and Ryan Flaherty both homered.