CLEARWATER, Fla. (AP) - If first impressions are important to baseball fans in Philadelphia, new Phillies pitcher Roy Halladay aced his entry exam.
Halladay's spring debut with the Phillies did nothing to kill the buzz that engulfed Philadelphia when the team dealt for the former Cy Young Award winner three months ago.
Halladay got the Grapefruit League schedule under way with two near-perfect innings in the Phillies' 3-2 win over the New York Yankees on Thursday.
The 32-year-old Halladay threw a pair of hitless innings while striking out three. Halladay was at the crux of a blockbuster four-team set of trades in December between the Phillies, Toronto Blue Jays, Seattle Mariners and Oakland Athletics.
``I was excited for it,' said Halladay, who spent his first 12 seasons with the Toronto Blue Jays. ``You anticipate it, but once you get into the game, the game is always the same. Your approach is the same. I looked forward to it, especially early on. It's as much fun for me as it is for everyone else.'
Halladay allowed just one base runner in his first outing with the Phillies. New York's Jamie Hoffmann, playing first base after Nick Johnson was scratched before the game with a back ailment, reached on an error by Philadelphia third baseman Placido Polanco with one out in the first.
Halladay struck out the next batter, Jorge Posada, before getting Robinson Cano out on a fly ball to end the inning. Halladay struck out Nick Swisher and Randy Winn to begin a 1-2-3 inning.
``He's filthy,' said New York ace CC Sabathia.
Sabathia wasn't too bad himself in his first game since the World Series. He allowed two walks and two hits but kept zeros on the scoreboard through two innings.
But even the jovial, giant Sabathia couldn't overshadow Halladay's debut.
``He's a strike-throwing machine who knows how to locate, with movement,' said New York Yankees manager Joe Girardi, who saw plenty of Halladay last season in the American League East.
``He's a master of the strike zone,' Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said. ``He's got good stuff, an assortment of pitches and he can throw them all for strikes. And he's got confidence in all of his pitches.'
Kyle Kendrick took over for Halladay in the third inning. After his two-inning outing was over, Halladay threw an additional 10-12 pitches in the bullpen beyond the left field fence.
When he was through throwing, he went through a rigorous, 90-minute workout.
``They all say practice makes perfect. Well, he practices the right way, he prepares the right way,' Phillies pitching coach Rich Dubee said. ``You can say it's only the first game, but that's how he prepares to pitch every game.'
Halladay, the subject of rampant trade rumors last July, has appeared to make a relatively seamless transition from Toronto to Philadelphia. It might help that the two teams' spring training facilities are located five miles apart.
But Halladay also believes the makeup of the Phillies clubhouse - a majority of veterans who have played in the postseason in the last three seasons - has made the adjustment easier than he expected.
``It surprises me how easy it has been every day to come in and feel normal,' Halladay said. ``There are going to be different things, like facing teams you're not used to. But it surprises me how comfortable it's been. It's a little bit of everything: the guys here, the staff - everyone has been really good.'
Halladay is slated to start again Tuesday night when the Phillies travel to Lake Buena Vista to take on the Atlanta Braves.
After Halladay exited Thursday, three more right-handers, Kendrick, Jose Contreras and Andrew Carpenter, also threw two shutout innings. The Yankees ruined the shutout bid with two runs in the top of the ninth for a 2-1 lead, but Wilson Valdez and Paul Hoover each collected RBI hits off Wilkins Arias in the bottom half to give the Phils a walk-off win.
NOTES: Philadelphia left-hander Sergio Escalona, who allowed two runs on four hits in the ninth, was awarded with the win. ... Cole Hamels is scheduled to make his Grapefruit League debut Friday afternoon in Dunedin when the Phils take on the Toronto Blue Jays. Jamie Moyer, who underwent three different offseason surgeries, is on tap to start in the ``B' game in Clearwater Friday morning. ... Polanco, who won a Gold Glove at second base last year while with Detroit, misjudged a pop foul ball later in the game after his error in the first inning.
The Associated Press News Service
The Associated Press
All Rights Reserved