Roy Halladay's challenging spring continues. The Phillies right-hander was brutalized by the Tigers earlier in camp, and he was forced to depart his last start because of a stomach virus. On Saturday, a lineup of minor-leaguers roughed him up, as he was able to retire just seven of the 18 batters he faced over the course of an 82-pitch outing. As Jeff Schuler of the Morning Call reports, Halladay's fastball sat between 86 and 89 miles per hour.
Those gun readings wouldn't be necessarily worrisome if not for Halladay's recent struggles (miserabe spring, following some of the worst numbers of his career in 2012), age (he'll turn 36 in May), pattern of velocity loss and shoulder woes (he was sidelined for almost 50 games last season). He'll make $20 million this year, but it's entirely possible Halladay won't reach the vesting benchmarks necessary to keep him in Philly for the 2014 season.
Beyond that, is it time to start thinking of Halladay as not only something less than the ace of years past, but also a pitcher who can't meet league-average numbers? No one should overreact to a bad spring, but Halladay's bad spring is part of a larger pattern.
Insofar as the 2013 Phillies are concerned, they lost rotation depth over the winter, and an ineffective Halladay will make it very difficult for them to compete with the superior Nationals and Braves.