TAMPA, Fla. -- Pitching coach Rich Dubee stood on the top step of the visitors' dugout of George M. Steinbrenner Field on Wednesday afternoon and insisted that this time is different.
This time, Roy Halladay truly is fine.
But there understandably are countless skeptics following Halladay's performance against the Tigers at Bright House Field on Tuesday. He allowed six hits, seven runs, four walks, one wild pitch, two home runs and one hit batsman in 2 2/3 innings. He lacked tempo and command. He lacked velocity. One scout said that his fastball hit just 86 mph to 88 mph on the radar gun. Other reports had his fastball a bit slower than that. His velocity has dropped after his first two Grapefruit League starts.
Halladay, Dubee and others insisted last spring that he was fine despite a drop in velocity, but it was acknowledged later that he had health problems from the beginning of camp, which led to one of the worst seasons of his storied career.
"He had issues last year," Dubee said. "He can't make it public. Why should he? You guys don't need to know everything, first of all. This guy didn't want anybody to know he was banged up last year. … He is not having anything this year. He is not having any physical problems this year. Any. Arm. Back. Legs. Nothing."
But why should people believe that this year?
"You can believe what you want," Dubee said. "I'm telling you what I knew last year and what I know this year. He felt obligated to take the ball. This is a special guy, you know? And he tried to pitch through some stuff last year. Right now, at this point this year, he feels fantastic, physically. Like I said, he doesn't even feel like he pitched yesterday. He threw 70 pitches. He felt like he could throw another 100. He's not there with his delivery and location."
Halladay blamed lethargy for his struggles on Tuesday, saying that a more intense workout program, plus throwing two bullpen sessions between starts, caused the fatigue. He also said that his cutter has been an issue.
Dubee explained that because Halladay had problems with his cutter, he altered his delivery, which caused more problems.
"I know what he's missing," Dubee said. "He's missing his cutter. The cutter is not there. The cutter was there at the beginning of the game yesterday to the far side. And when he tried to throw it back-door, he changes his delivery. He changes his arm slot. He changes his delivery. So all of a sudden, that leads into the other side, too. First of all, he's not there rep-wise to be able to make that adjustment quick enough. Second, right now the back-door cutter is probably too much because he's not locked in delivery wise."
Halladay will throw a bullpen session on Friday at Bright House Field. He is scheduled to pitch on Sunday against the Orioles, although Dubee allowed the possibility he could pitch in a Minor League game at Carpenter Complex instead.
That could be decided on Friday.
It was mentioned again that people are skeptical, because they heard the same "all is well" talk last spring.
Dubee replied, "You can throw any red flag you want up there."
Dubee knew of Halladay's health issues last spring but he wasn't going to announce them publicly. He reiterated that he is not "doom and gloom" this spring, whereas last spring he might have been.
"Absolutely," he said. "Last year I had more concerns. … I'm not going to come out here and say the guy can't do this or can't do that. Why would I? This year, going off what he's been telling me, physically, talking to him, seeing him, yes, physically he is fine."
If this year truly is different, time will tell.
Durbin ready to serve as mentor to young relievers
TAMPA, Fla. -- The last time right-hander Chad Durbin pitched out of the Phillies' bullpen, in 2010, such veterans as Brad Lidge, Ryan Madson, Jose Contreras, J.C. Romero and Danys Baez surrounded him.
This year will be quite a bit different.
There are veterans -- Jonathan Papelbon, Mike Adams and Antonio Bastardo -- but there are three jobs available and a bunch of youngsters fighting for them. Durbin, who pitched a scoreless inning in Wednesday's 6-2 loss to the Yankees at George M. Steinbrenner Field, has liked what he has seen.
"I kind of don't look at the arms anymore as much as I did when I was younger," Durbin said. "I kind of look at the makeup. I like when guys get a little bit [ticked] off when it doesn't go well when they're young. Later on you can act like the professional you're supposed to be, but because you're that competitive young … I see that with a couple of guys with electric stuff. Sometimes those guys kind of take it for granted. Everybody has been blowing sunshine up their [rear ends] for 10 years, and they believe it. Whereas I think these guys know, with Pap out there and Adams and those guys, they're not that good yet. I think that's my impression so far. Their makeup is pretty solid. And they work hard."
The Phillies hope that Durbin continues the success he had last season with the Braves, when he went 4-1 with a 3.10 ERA in 76 appearances. But his effectiveness is not the only reason the Phillies brought him back. They also want him to help the young relievers find their way.
Durbin remembered advice he received from teammates when he joined the bullpen in 2008.
"Madson and [Tom Gordon] could tell me, 'Just be ready every day, be ready all the time, and when you get out there, throw strikes,'" he said. "'Make it happen quick. If it's good or bad or ugly, make it happen quick. The manager will hold up to that. He'll be happy with that. But if you go out there and it's a 30-pitch inning, maybe you got out of it, maybe you didn't.' … That helped me out, and I've tried to project that to these guys. It doesn't matter how good your stuff is. The manager might care about it in the meeting, but when he has to make a decision in the game -- Hey, what's our best chance to win? -- He might go with a guy with less stuff because he knows he's going to go out there and it's going to be strike one, 1-2 counts. to give him a better chance."
Homer could mean reversal of fortune for Ruf
TAMPA, Fla. -- This is not the spring Darin Ruf envisioned as he entered camp last month.
Ruf opened Wednesday's 6-2 loss to the Yankees at George M. Steinbrenner Field hitting just .188, with three doubles and six RBIs, in 11 Grapefruit League games. He has struggled in the field, too, putting him in a tougher spot to make the team with 16 games to play before the Phillies open their season in Atlanta on April 1.
But Ruf smacked a solo home run to left field in the sixth inning on a 0-2 pitch from Yankees right-hander David Aardsma.
Maybe this will get things going for him.
"It's good to see him hit one out," manager Charlie Manuel said after the game.
Lee pays price for fielding miscues
TAMPA, Fla. -- The first three innings for the Phillies in their 6-2 loss to the Yankees on Wednesday could not have been any sloppier.
Cliff Lee paid the price, too.
Not that he looked his best. He allowed six hits, five runs (two earned) and two walks and struck out two with 71 pitches in 2 2/3 innings. The Phillies recorded four errors while he was on the mound, including one attributed to him.
"I felt good," Lee said. "That's the main thing. I'm just continuing to build up pitches. I had [two] walks. I'm not too happy about that, but I made pitches. They got their share of hits. We kind of played sloppy. I contributed to that as well, nearly throwing the ball down the right-field line [in the third]. [John] Mayberry kind of saved that one."
Delmon picks up the pace in rehab program
TAMPA, Fla. -- Outfielder Delmon Young has picked up his rehab program a bit this week, but there is no change in his timetable, which has him back with the Phillies sometime between mid-April and May 1.
Young has been doing drills with the agility ladder and running back-to-back days on the treadmill.
The Phillies remain hopeful that Young will be able to play in some sort of game before the team heads north to begin the season.
Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.