THE MAGIC WORD during the near-15- minute-long briefing of Roy Halladay's recent surgery and upcoming rehab from Phillies team physician Dr. Michael Ciccotti?
Possible. As in, all things are possible.
Is it realistic to expect Roy Halladay back on a major league mound this season? According to Ciccotti, "It's very possible."
Would more time to recover - and thus, being shut down for the remainder of the season - help Halladay in the long run? "Very possible," Ciccotti said.
After a disastrous first 5 weeks of the season, Halladay underwent arthroscopic surgery on his right shoulder Wednesday in Los Angeles. The Phillies termed the surgery a success yesterday, when they said they're hopeful Halladay can begin a throwing program in 6 to 8 weeks.
But the procedure itself - which went as expected, with no tears or detachments to his rotator cuff or labrum - is only the beginning.
Halladay still faces an uphill battle in recovery from the surgery, rehabbing his shoulder and regaining the talent that made him one of baseball's best pitchers until his shoulder gave out a year ago. While a return in 2013 seems just as possible as Halladay being shut down, the real question was finding out what was probable for the 36-year-old righthander.
Ciccotti expressed cautious optimism, but admitted there were more than a few challenges along the way in Halladay's goal of returning to a big-league mound this summer.
"Number one, will he get his full range of motion back?" Ciccotti began, listing the obstacles Halladay would have to overcome. "Because for a professional pitcher to throw a ball with the velocities that make them successful, they need to have a certain arc of motion. So certainly him getting his full range of motion is important.
"Also being able to throw the ball at that velocity is dependent upon his strength. And he's had some weakness recently . . . so getting his strength back. And then [going through] all that happens from that point on, when he starts a tossing program, his ability to locate the ball confidently."
Dr. Neal ElAttrache, the surgeon who performed the procedure in Los Angeles, told the pitcher that surgery could help him "turn back the clock" on his right arm. But the rough translation of that, Ciccotti said yesterday, was that Halladay could feel as healthy and strong as he did before the onset of his pain.
No one - not even two-time Cy Young Award winner Roy Halladay - can outrun Father Time.
Which leads to an interesting examination of pitchers in Halladay's class. According to a study by FanGraphs.com, pitchers 35 or older who were placed on the disabled list for a shoulder injury haven't been prone to career revivals.
The website found that, since 2002, 32 of the 62 pitchers who fit the above criteria never pitched another inning, 44 failed to pitch at least 50 innings, and only six pitched more than 100 innings for the remainder of their careers.
"There are lots of factors that actually go beyond what happened [Wednesday] that would determine that and that's clearly a challenge for any elite-level pitcher, even a Roy Halladay, to get back from," Ciccotti said. "As I said earlier, given what was found at the time of the surgery - the best-case scenario - and given the fact who Roy is and the motivation and focus he has, we certainly hope that happens and it's possible. But there's a lot between now and then to be able to precisely predict how effective he's going to be."
When he found out he would have to undergo surgery last week, Halladay was the picture of optimism. He joked with teammates, coaches and reporters alike, and he couldn't wipe the smile from his face.
Halladay wasn't just hopeful he would pitch again this season; he was almost looking forward to the challenging rehab ahead.
The Hall of Fame-caliber resume Halladay has is complemented by his unwavering determination.
"Given the person that he is, the motivation that he has, the dedication that he has, he has all the intangibles that are important in getting someone back," Ciccotti said. "But we're realistic about it, too. It is very possible that he is not pitching at the level that he wants or what Phillies fans and his teammates deserve him to be pitching at."
It's possible Halladay can make a storybook return to the rotation to lead the Phillies on a spirited run in September. But, it's also possible that Halladay, who will be a free agent this winter, has thrown his last pitch for the Phillies.
"We are going to be so careful with Roy Halladay, and Roy wants to be a part of this team, but he needs to meet certain milestones along the way before he can progress to the next level," Ciccotti said. "If he does that, if he achieves his range of motion and if he's strong . . . and if he progresses to a very specific throwing program . . . he has to pass each of those tests along the way. If he doesn't pass them in a way that we're comfortable and he's comfortable, then we're not going to allow him to go out on a mound and pitch the way he would not want to pitch."