If his days in a Toronto Blue Jays uniform are coming to a close, Roy Halladay put on a show for the larger than normal Rogers Centre crowd that came to see him pitch yesterday.
There was one especially engrossed onlooker among the 36,534 in attendance. Philadelphia Phillies adviser Pat Gillick didn't need to be wowed by Halladay, but if there was any doubt about the groin injury that Halladay returned from last month, he wiped out any misgivings with a dominating, complete-game 3-1 win over the Boston Red Sox.
It was the first victory for Halladay (11-3) after being stung with two losses and one no-decision since his return from the disabled list.
The Phillies are one of several clubs believed to be interested in acquiring Halladay with the July 31 no-waiver trade deadline 11 days away. Gillick - the former Blue Jays general manager who left in 1994, a year after Toronto drafted Halladay out of Arvada West High School outside Denver - was overheard in the press box discussing the severity of the pitcher's groin ailment with Toronto team physician Ron Taylor.
Halladay, 32, provided the answer with his 44th career complete-game outing.
Other than a sloppy first inning, in which he gave up two hits and a run on a sacrifice fly to centre field by David Ortiz, Halladay was solid. He surrendered six hits, but was at his best in the final six innings, when he retired 18 of the 19 batters he faced.
With an appreciative crowd giving Halladay a standing ovation after he struck out the game's final batter, Toronto catcher Rod Barajas put his arm around the Toronto ace and told him, "You're unbelievable." Barajas also admitted there was a sense in the clubhouse and felt it from the stands that this may be one of Halladay's final appearances with the Jays.
"Today, it was a little more intense," Barajas said. "[The crowd]was there to support him and they'd love to see him around.
"In a game like this, when you don't know if it's going to be your last start for the organization, it has to be tough. You'd like to go out there and do something incredible and amazing. The tendency is to try to do too much and get too hyped up. But he was able to put that behind him."
Halladay is revered for his professional approach to his job. He endured a hectic All-Star Game break in St. Louis last week, when at every turn he was queried about the possibility of being moved to a contender.
He is in the second season of a three-year, $40-million (U.S.) no-trade contract, and with the Jays well back in the standings again, the timing may be right for Toronto GM J.P. Ricciardi to move his ace for a bevy of prospects. When Halladay exited the scene in St. Louis, he remarked that he was finished talking about the possibility of ending his stay with the Jays.
"If you skate around it at the point you cause yourself more stuff that you will have to deal with later," he said. "It was hard to do because there was so much going on. It was one of those overwhelming moments you have in your life.
"I really believe that being able to handle all that at the All-Star Game, as much of a circus as that was, it allowed me to come back and get back at my job. It's hard to do, but you have to do the best you can to put it out of your mind and focus on what you're doing."
In his 105-pitch performance, Halladay faced only six more than the minimum 27 batters and threw 78 strikes.
"I think he's acted professionally about it," Toronto manager Cito Gaston said. "I think he's handled it well. We're just going to have to wait and see. The one thing is he has a no-trade and it's going to have to be a place he wants to be."
Halladay's next scheduled start is against the Tampa Bay Rays on Friday.