SAN FRANCISCO - The first positive sign came on Tuesday night, when Roy Halladay checked back into the clubhouse at AT&T Park and was wearing his regular Phillies workout gear following the team's win over the Giants.
He didn't look like a guy preparing a retirement speech.
The next came about 12 hours later, when an upbeat Halladay wore both his game uniform and an ear-to-ear grin as he greeted reporters a couple of hours before his scheduled news conference.
"Are you guys going to grill me?" Halladay joked.
Halladay was in a good mood, because a thorough exam on his right shoulder revealed that his career is not in jeopardy and that he could resume pitching at some point in 2013.
While his return isn't imminent, Halladay was clearly content he had the opportunity to return, period.
"There's just no crystal ball," Halladay said. "[But] now I feel like I have something to grasp on to. Something to move forward with. I don't feel as lost as before. I feel like there's some answers there, some things that we see that can be done, and I'm optimistic that we'll get it fixed and I'll be able to come back and pitch."
Halladay spent the first 2 days of the Phillies' stay in California in Los Angeles, where he had his ailing shoulder examined by Neal ElAttrache, of the Kerlen-Jobe Orthopaedic Clinic. The testing revealed a bone spur in his shoulder.
Halladay expects to undergo arthroscopic surgery in the next week to clean up the bone spur, the rotator cuff and the labrum. The Phils should learn more about a timetable after the procedure is performed, but it's fair to assume Halladay will be sidelined for at least a couple of months.
"Obviously, I don't want to miss time," Halladay said, "but I think, as far as scenarios go, I feel like it's a lot better than some of the things I anticipated."
"I guess of the scenarios it could have been, it's a pretty good one," general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said. "We still remain optimistic that he can come back and pitch at some time this year."
According to Halladay, the bone spur was irritating the rotator cuff and created "more of a tear" with increased usage.
Although the rotator cuff, with a partial tear, was in worse shape than when it was last examined a year ago, it is not a complete tear, and thus Halladay does not have to face the foreboding challenge of attempting to return from extensive rotator cuff surgery at his age. Halladay turns 36 next week.
"The fact that it's a scope and cleanup is a lot better than going in and having to reattach [the rotator cuff] and have a full surgery," Halladay said. "This is a lot better option, a lot quicker, and, at my age, a lot better for me."
Although Halladay was in good spirits yesterday, he still faces a long summer of rehab and recovery. And there is no guarantee that he'll be strong and effective if and when he does return this season.
Halladay has battled shoulder issues for more than a year, and it's showed up in his stats. After going 40-16 with a 2.40 ERA, one Cy Young Award, one perfect game and one postseason no-hitter in his first two seasons with the Phillies, Halladay has gone 13-12 with a 5.24 ERA in 32 starts since last season began.
After speaking with ElAttrache in the last 2 days, Halladay was confident the upcoming procedure would fix a few of the reasons he's been struggling.
"The doctor seemed pretty optimistic that if what they saw is correct, I could come back and be a lot more effective and have a chance to pitch this year," Halladay said. "He really felt like if they got a lot of that stuff cleaned up, especially the bone spur, it would increase my range of motion and it would allow my arm slot to be more consistent . . . He said he thought they could turn back the clock 2 or 3 years for me. I thought it was very good news."
Until Halladay's surgery and rehab are complete, the Phillies will attempt to patch the rotation together. Tyler Cloyd will join the team in Arizona and make his first start of the season tomorrow, when Halladay originally was on tap to pitch.
Earlier this week, Amaro said the team likely would look externally for a long-term replacement in the rotation. Unless that comes via trade, Amaro could scour the minor leagues for former major leaguers with out-clauses in their contracts, such as Chris Young and Chien-Ming Wang.
Or he could stand pat and hope that Jonathan Pettibone, who joined the rotation when John Lannan landed on the disabled list, continues to perform in the bottom of the rotation.
"One guy who we know is going to come back is Lannan," Amaro said. "He would be the guy who replaces him. His rehab has been stepped up. He's doing much better."
Lannan, out with a left knee injury, isn't due back until the end of the month at the earliest.
At some point, Amaro hopes to have his entire Opening Day rotation intact. With the beaming disposition and optimistic attitude he showed yesterday, Halladay is on that game plan, too.
It's a far better place to be than worrying about whether his career was in jeopardy.
"I was going in open-minded," Halladay said of whether he was concerned that his injury was one that could threaten his career. "I really didn't know. But I went in open-minded. And I kind of felt like it was good news, that I have a good chance to come back and pitch, and help us try to get to the World Series. That's the ultimate goal. That's why I'm playing."
If that doesn't happen this year - the Phillies are three games under .500 and face a formidable task of competing without Halladay in the coming months - the pitcher will have a decision to make at the end of the season. He can become a free agent for the first time in his career.
But both the pitcher and his general manager were focusing on the present - and not beyond 2013 - yesterday at AT & T Park.
"Right now, we're just concerned about getting him healthy again," Amaro said. "Who wouldn't want Roy Halladay around? He's one of the best pitchers of all time, as far as I'm concerned."
"I really want to get through this, come back and see how strong I can be and see how effective I can be, and see if I can help us," Halladay said. "Like I told Ruben and Charlie [Manuel], I'm not going to make any decisions right now about down the road. I'm going to focus on the here and now and this process.
"I've always told you guys I love Philadelphia, love playing here. It's a great place to be. But there's a lot to be determined. I want to be effective and I want to be a part of the team. I don't want to be a hindrance."