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On 05/29/2012 08:10 PM in MLB

No sugarcoating it, Phillies suffer big blow with 6-8 week loss of Halladay

No sugarcoating it, Phillies suffer big blow with 6-8 week loss of Halladay

By Jon Heyman | Baseball Insider

Roy Halladay left his start on Sunday in St. Louis after just two innings with soreness. (US Presswire)

NEW YORK -- The Phillies were putting on their usual brave face for the unfortunate news that Roy Halladay was diagnosed with a strained lat muscle in his right shoulder area and was expected to be lost for six-to-eight weeks, yet they surely understood the gravity of it. They were all talking about how they were going to fight through it. But of course they've already been fighting through the losses of Ryan Howard and Chase Utley, who haven't played one game yet.

This is another big one. "It's not good,'' one Phillies person summarized, succinctly.

Halladay has something between a Grade 1 and 2 strain of that lat muscle, and while only rest and rehab are prescribed, unfortunately it's a fairly long rest and rehab situation. He may not be back until late July, even by their own timetable.

"You've got to keep playing, that's how I look at it,'' Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said. "We still have to come out here and outplay the other team. We'll stay after it. We'll play hard. Heck, we'll play harder.''

The Phillies announced Halladay would be shut down entirely for three weeks, with the last three to five presumably needed to get back on a major-league mound. Halladay wouldn't have allowed himself to come out of that last game in St Louis if he wasn't hurt. So everyone around the team knew something was wrong. Everyone knew he'd be headed for the disabled list, at least. But, as one Phillie mentioned, "Eight weeks is a long time in baseball season.''

There had been whispers since spring training something wasn't quite right with Halladay, and his average fastball velocity was off, from about 93 mph to about 91 mph. After a recent defeat to the Nationals, one scout said, "That was the worst I've ever seen Halladay.'' Asked what was wrong, the scout indicated everything.

Turns out what was wrong was the lat muscle near his shoulder, and now he has several weeks to get it into shape. Even before assistant GM Scott Preofrock came with the official word, Manuel was bracing for something bad. "Halladay's thrown a lot of pitches, man,'' Manuel noted. "How old is he? He's thrown a lot of bullets. If he steps back a little, I think you'll see a (different) pitcher. He's got to get to a place where he feels better. He's got to get well.''

The Phillies have done a decent job staying competitive with the heart of their order out. But now they are missing one of their three vaunted starters, something they never imagined. Halladay insisted there was nothing seriously wrong right up until the day he had to leave in St. Louis.

There are so many things the matter with the unhealthy team now, Manuel couldn't answer immediately when asked whether he's like the team to acquire a pitcher or a hitter. Eventually, he answered, "We could always use another pitcher.''

But Manuel learned moments later they won't be getting Roy Oswalt, who was 9-10 with a 3.69 ERA for them last year. He would have been nice, but he wasn't exactly a world beater for them last year, and one Phillie opined, "He's better off (in Texas),'' referring to Oswalt's geographical preference.

The Phillies, meanwhile, will hope Vance Worley can return soon from an elbow issue, and he'd join Cole Hamels, Cliff Lee, Joe Blanton and Kyle Kendrick in a rotation that is now missing the ace among aces. If Worley can't make it, the choices for the last rotation spot are untested prospects.

There is still no definitive timetable for Utley and Howard, though Proefrock indicated there's a chance Howard could be back in a couple weeks. "When they get back, it'll be great,'' Preofrock said, "but in the meantime we have to worry about what we're doing here.''

They're probably pretty fortunate to be at 26-24 and tied for fourth place with the Braves (that's also tied for last), only four games out of first place in a division where every team has a winning record.

"We've just got to keep plugging away,'' outfielder Hunter Pence said. "We know he'll get back as soon as he can.''

The question is this: Will it be soon enough?