Why Roy Halladay's death hits so hard

Why Roy Halladay's death hits so hard

This one hurts. It's a pain all too familiar if you're a Philadelphia sports fan. One of ours gone too soon. I covered Roy Halladay during his short tenure here. He was always professional, cordial and courteous. He genuinely tried to give you an honest answer. And as a media member, you appreciated that.

That was the extent of my relationship with Mr. Halladay. I did not know him beyond the field. But when the tragic news of his death was confirmed on Tuesday afternoon, it sure felt like I lost a family member or friend. I had the chills, a numbness that only something catastrophic can bring about. He wasn't a buddy or a relative but he was one of us. He represents a special time in the pantheon of Philadelphia sports despite the fact that he never won a championship here.

Sadly, we've lived this before. Pelle Lindbergh and Jerome Brown to name two individuals with so much life in front of them, cut down at a young age. Despite our experience, it doesn't get any easier. That pit that forms in your stomach is the same one I had as a kid when I heard about Pelle, then as I got older and heard about Jerome. 

The Phillies' organization itself has suffered an unfathomable amount of loss over the last fifteen years or so, from Tug McGraw to John Vukovich to Darren Daulton and if you've been around long enough, each of those names holds a special place in your heart.

Halladay walked the walk as a man. He stepped away from baseball to spend time with his wife and two boys and that's exactly what he did. No aborted comeback or job coaching in the big leagues, not that there's anything wrong with that. That just wasn't him. The sad, ironic part is he got only four years post-baseball life with his loved ones. But if you speak with people who knew him or a scroll through his Twitter timeline, you see images of a proud father, coaching and spending time with his kids.

Sports create memories. My son was seven when the Phillies won the World Series in 2008. That team was his gateway to sports, we watched every game together, banged pots and pans together when they won it on that cold, rainy night. And he and my daughter were there on that beautiful Halloween day of the parade. That love of that team and sports carried over to the 2010 season when Halladay arrived in Philadelphia. We watched every one of his starts together, including the perfect game in May and the playoff no-hitter in October.

That's what I'll remember about Halladay. The memories and moments that he created for us. And a life well-lived.

Healthy Jerad Eickhoff says, 'The sky is the limit'

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Healthy Jerad Eickhoff says, 'The sky is the limit'

CLEARWATER, Fla. — Jerad Eickhoff is an important man in this Phillies season. He needs to be closer to the guy who pitched to a 3.65 ERA in 197 1/3 innings in 2016 than the one who had a 4.71 ERA in 128 innings last season.

It all starts with good health. Eickhoff, 27, missed time with an upper-back strain and a nerve issue near his right shoulder last season.

He is healthy now and has made a tweak in his mechanics to ease pressure on his shoulder. He made his spring debut with two hitless, scoreless innings in a 6-0 exhibition win over the University of Tampa on Thursday (more on the game here). Eickhoff threw 17 pitches, 14 of which were strikes. He struck out two, walked none and hit a batter. 

“No matter what game it is that you pitch in, you get that intensity, there’s a hitter in the box, you still get butterflies being back at it,” Eickhoff said. “Today was a big day, facing some competition. The live batting practice was checking off the first box. A game setting was kind of the second box, so I think the sky is the limit from here. I feel great.”

Eickhoff developed a mechanical flaw last season as his body would often fall toward first base after delivering the ball. That put pressure on his shoulder. He has tried to correct the flaw this winter by holding his glove a little higher before he releases the ball. That helps him get going toward home plate.

If healthy, Eickhoff will be in the starting rotation. (Former bench coach Larry Bowa is high on him). But he’s taking nothing for granted.

“I try to approach every spring like I’m trying to win a job,” Eickhoff said. “I have something to prove every year.”

• Andrew Knapp caught and batted leadoff. He worked a walk to lead off the game and that impressed manager Gabe Kapler. Kapler advised not to read into batting order positions this early in camp. 

“These are practice settings,” he said.

• The Phillies play their Grapefruit League opener Friday afternoon against the Blue Jays in Dunedin. Rotation candidates Nick Pivetta and Mark Leiter Jr. are expected to get some work. Non-roster invite Francisco Rodriguez, he of the 437 career saves, could also get an inning.

Future closer? Power-armed Seranthony Dominguez dazzles in opener

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Future closer? Power-armed Seranthony Dominguez dazzles in opener

CLEARWATER, Fla. — This was a nice little glimpse of the future.

Seven of the eight pitchers used by the Phillies in Thursday’s 6-0 exhibition win over the University of Tampa were prospects who likely need a little more time in the minors, but could someday be mainstays in Philadelphia.

Jerad Eickhoff started and pitched two scoreless innings (see story). After him, prospects Jose Taveras, Tom Eshelman, Franklyn Kilome, Enyel De Los Santos, Seranthony Dominguez, Cole Irvin and Ranger Suarez kept the shutout intact. None of the Phillies’ pitchers walked a batter, though Eickhoff did hit one.

“No walks, that’s fairly unusual for spring training,” manager Gabe Kapler said. “It was like Command City. Guys were on top of it.”

Kapler singled out Dominguez, a strong-bodied, power-armed, 23-year-old right-hander who earned a spot on the 40-man roster in November. Dominguez allowed a leadoff single in the seventh then came back with three swinging strikeouts, all on high-80s sliders.

“He maintained his composure, had electric stuff and the bravado of a seasoned veteran,” Kapler said.

Dominguez, signed out of the Dominican Republic for $25,000 in 2012, touched 100 mph with his fastball as a starter in the Florida State League early last season. He ended up missing time with biceps tendinitis, but is healthy now. The Phillies have reduced his pitch mix from four to three (fastball, slider, changeup) and he will convert to the bullpen, where he profiles as a potential closer, this season. He is likely to open at Double A Reading. Don’t rule out seeing him in Philadelphia later this season if all goes well.

“As a bullpen guy, he could be a quick mover,” general manager Matt Klentak said.

“He has a top-of-the-scale fastball,” director of player development Joe Jordan said. “He has a chance to really dominate in the late innings.”