If there was any doubt remaining, it's gone today—Phillies fans have pressed the panic button in regards to Roy Halladay's 2013 season.
The latest setback, a 2-plus inning outing that yielded nine runs to the lowly Marlins, was just the start of yesterday's disappointment. After the game, Halladay told reporters that he'd been experiencing discomfort in his right shoulder—an announcement that came as a surprise even to Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr.
It's not known how long Halladay will be on the shelf. Amaro has already admitted the pitcher is almost certainly headed to the disabled list—but is there any chance Halladay will be ready to return 15 days from now?
"Anything's possible," said Justin Shaginaw, MPT, ATC, lead therapist and coordinator for Sports Medicine at Aria 3B Orthopaedic Institute. "This could be a muscle strain, something where he slept wrong—it doesn't have to be a worst-case scenario."
Shaginaw quickly added, however, that such a outcome is rather optimistic at this point. Next he discussed worst-case scenarios, which are as follows:
Such a result would mean the end of Halladay's 2013 season, and potentially his time as a Phillie (the team has a $20M option on his contract for 2014, one they are extremely unlikely to pick up if Halladay is coming off major surgery.)
The middle-of-the-road, perhaps likely, scenario involves an injury that wouldn't necessarily require surgery, but nonetheless would result in an extended DL stay. "All pitchers acquire kinetic chain problems... say, an issue where the big toe isn't providing enough push off of the mound, which causes the pitcher to drop his shoulder," said Shaginaw.
The training staff would need to do a thorough evaluation and see where any supposed deficits might lie before returning Halladay to a throwing program—usually a 6-8 week proposition.
Of course, the elephant in the room is the age question. Halladay celebrates his 36th birthday next week, which would present additional challenges in rehab and recovery from a serious injury or worse, surgery.
'The older the player, the less chance that these injuries heal as effectively," admitted Shaginaw. "But probably more importantly, the older you are, the more of these kinetic chain-type problems you're likely to have. As they say, you can't teach an old dog new tricks. That's why you see those rigorous strengthening and stretching programs with MLB teams."
So this could be anything from Halladay sleeping in an awkward position and experiencing some discomfort, to a season-ending and career-threatening labral tear?
"Yes, it could," laughed Shaginaw. "It's hard to give too many specifics—until they do an MRI, we're all just speculating."
The Phillies' 2013 season—and the future of one of the game's best pitchers—may hang in the balance.