Vintage Halladay not enough for Jays
Ace goes nine -- of 10 -- in what might be final start for club
TORONTO -- The fans were on their feet and cheering loud, offering Roy Halladay a long standing ovation as he made his way off the field following the top of the ninth inning on Friday night at Rogers Centre. With his head down, Halladay walked to the dugout and didn't wave or tip his cap.
The crowd was coping with the fact that it may have just witnessed Halladay's final outing as the ace of the Blue Jays' rotation and the face of the franchise. The pitcher had other things on his mind. Specifically, Doc was contemplating whether he could take the mound in the 10th inning against the Rays.
"At that point, you're still kind of in game mode," Halladay said after Toronto dropped a 4-2 decision -- in 10 innings -- to Tampa Bay. "You're not done."
Halladay's focus was on the game -- one in which the score hardly seemed to matter -- and not on the trade rumors that have continued to pick up steam as the calendar inches closer to the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline. Sitting in the dugout after the ninth, Halladay was approached by manager Cito Gaston, who shook the pitcher's hand and told him, "Great job."
Halladay's night was indeed over and the Blue Jays weren't able to deliver for the good doctor in the bottom of the ninth or in extra innings. Instead, Toronto closer Scott Downs surrendered a two-run, two-out double to Rays third baseman Evan Longoria that broke a 2-2 tie and dropped the Jays' record against the American League East to 11-21 this season.
In a way, it was fitting.
Once again, Halladay did everything he could for Toronto (47-50), logging at least nine inning for the fourth time this year, but walking away with a no-decision. Over the past decade, Halladay has given his all for the Blue Jays, only to become the only active pitcher with at least 100 career wins to have never started in the postseason.
Therein lies the problem, and the root of all the rumors.
"Every player who hasn't had that chance kind of sits down and watches those games, and wonders how they would do," said Halladay, referring to the playoffs, "or what it would be like."
Halladay -- still 11-3 on the year and now the owner of a 2.63 ERA -- might get that chance this year. Shortly before the All-Star break, Blue Jays general manager J.P. Ricciardi made it known that the organization is willing to listen to trade offers for its ace, and Halladay seems more open to a possible change of scenery as well.
The Phillies are believed to be going hard after Halladay and were one of two teams -- the other being the Yankees -- to have eyes at Rogers Centre to keep an eye on the pitcher's latest performance. Halladay gave the scouts, fans and Blue Jays another gem to remember in a duel with Rays right-hander Matt Garza.
Halladay allowed two runs -- both on sacrifice flies -- and scattered four hits, ending with 10 strikeouts and three walks. Had his pitch count not climbed to 115, Halladay might have continued his vintage effort in extras.
"That's just Doc," Gaston said of Halladay's outing. "Every time he goes out there, you know he's going to give you all he has."
As things currently stand, Halladay is scheduled to start for Toronto on the road in Seattle on Wednesday. If a trade is going to happen, Ricciardi has said that he'd prefer to have it finalized before Halladay takes the hill against the Mariners. That internal deadline is flexible, but the Jays don't want the situation to drag on until July 31.
After Friday's start, Halladay moved to an interview room outside of the team's clubhouse to accommodate the increased crowd of reporters that was on hand. For 20 minutes, Halladay politely answered questions. Asked about the possibility of being traded, Halladay said he believes that he will still be a member of the Jays come August.
"Right now, yeah, I think I will be here," Halladay said. "If there was an urgency to be somewhere else -- and an urgency for the team to have me somewhere else -- I think it'd be different. I just don't get that feeling. For that reason, I think that at this point, I feel like I'm going to be here."
"It's hard," he later added. "It is such a great place and I've enjoyed being here so much that I don't feel like I'm really trying to go somewhere else. Just for that reason, on both sides, I don't think there's that urgency. That's strictly a gut feeling on my side."
On Thursday, Ricciardi said that the Jays began exploring trading Halladay after the pitcher informed the club of his plans to test free agency after his contract expires following the 2010 season. A day later, Halladay said that wasn't entirely accurate.
"It's not testing the free-agent waters," Halladay said. "It would be getting to that point and seeing, 'Where are we as an organization? Are we close?' If so, then I'm interested. If not, I think my window's getting shorter, and maybe I need to look at where my best chance would be."
Ricciardi declined to talk about the situation prior to Friday's game.
"We're not talking about Halladay," Ricciardi said. "I'll talk on the 31st. There's nothing else to say. We've said enough."
Ricciardi also told reporters Thursday that Halladay, who has a full no-trade clause, provided the Blue Jays with a list of teams to which he'd approve a trade. The general manager later clarified his comments, indicating that the team had simply gone over a few teams with the pitcher. Halladay confirmed that he has discussed potential trade locations with the Jays' front office.
"They're aware of what I'm looking for -- that I want a chance to win," Halladay said. "If you are going to talk about [being traded], there's certain places that maybe you would go and I think they need to know that. If not, you're kind of wasting your time. There have been a little bit of those talks, but I'd hate to go too far in-depth."
Halladay also said he doesn't want to look too far down the road. That didn't stop the crowd from crying for a curtain call after he left the game in the ninth inning. Halladay didn't oblige, but that was because his focus differed from that of his fans.
"It's a tough situation," Halladay said. "You have it in the back of your mind that you will go back out there. I really think that for me, it was just trying to keep myself in the game and not anticipate it being over before it was."
Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.