CLEARWATER, Fla. - It is early afternoon, sun-splashed, all of that. Outside Bright House Field, the jets of the fountain dance and the statue of Steve Carlton keeps watch. The countdown to spring training can now be accomplished with fingers. The clubhouse will be open to reporters in a little more than a week.

Two ticket windows are open for transactions and both are transacting; average age of transactors: 72. Through the fence, you can see two workers steam-cleaning the blue seats behind first base. In short rightfield, a man with a shovel and a wheelbarrow digs up some sod. Behind him, three guys are wrestling with an advertising sign they are trying to attach to the outfield wall.

Inside, Roy Halladay has already been and gone.

The Phillies' premier offseason acquisition, perhaps baseball's premier pitcher, has been working out here for a couple of weeks now. His offseason home is nearby, his work ethic is legendary, and he has tended to arrive at the ballpark at around 7 in the morning and stay for 3 or 4 hours.

"Before we got him, you would talk to people about him and all of the talk was about preparation and about professionalism and about work ethic," said Rich Dubee, the Phils' pitching coach.

"From what I've seen so far, it's special. He is very detailed - that's the first thing you notice. He knows what he needs to accomplish on a given day, and he goes about it. He's a tremendous cardio guy. He works on the weights. He does shoulder exercises. He knows what he needs and he just works his way down the list. It takes him a while, but he gets everything done."

Dubee said he has been around Halladay several times already, which is unusual. Every pitcher is different, and every one of them balances the need for rest after the previous season with the need for conditioning for the upcoming season. Sometimes, that balance is elusive. Ask Cole Hamels.

Dubee said that a "good amount" of the team's pitchers have thrown off of a mound by now, wherever they are spending the winter. It clearly varies. For Halladay, though, there appears to be only one way.

"He gets there around 7," Dubee said. "Last week, I was going to watch him throw in the bullpen. We talked about it and he said he was going to throw at, like, 8:15 or 8:30. I got there at 8 and he was already in a pretty good lather. He'd already been there for an hour or so. He's there 5 days a week, normally every day, at least 3 or 4 hours at a time . . .

"He's a hard-work guy. You watch him in the weight room, and the focus is on the details. He might have some small conversations, but you can tell he isn't there to talk. It's all about business. He's mostly about the routine. He'll do weights, do some cardio, some exercises, more weights, more cardio - he's always keeping his heart rate up."

Halladay has not been alone during his workouts, joined sometimes by a few pitchers on the Phillies' 40-man roster (Mike Zagurski, J.C. Ramirez, Kyle Kendrick) as well as nonroster invitee Phillippe Aumont. This is the part of the Halladay acquisition that can never be quantified.

We will tote up the wins and losses and strikeouts and innings and postseasons - especially postseasons - and come up with our own definitions of success and failure. What we will never know is how much the Kendricks and the Aumonts will benefit from the example of maybe the best pitcher in the game, driving his vehicle into the players' parking lot at Bright House, past the security-guard shack, and walking into the clubhouse. At 7 a.m. In January.

"It can have an effect," Dubee said. "When we got Jamie Moyer - you know, they're very much alike. They have different arms, different stuff. What's the same is the professionalism, the attention to detail - it's really very similar. And when the rest of the staff watches them, they don't only see what it takes to be successful - they see what it takes to stay in the game for a long time.

"We have other good workers. J.C. Romero is one. Brad Lidge is another. Ryan Madson has turned the corner as far as preparation and dedication. Jamie and Halladay, they take it a level up. But, the effect on the other players? Yes, you can see it."

Outside the ballpark, there is a half field. If you look closely, you can see the rake marks in the dirt, untrampled. Next to the small field is a bullpen mound. There, a member of the grounds crew is tidying. It is early afternoon. Roy Halladay is expected again in the morning. *

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