CLEARWATER. Fla. - It may have been a rehabilitation start against minor-leaguers, but Roy Halladay wasn't coming out of the game.
The bases were loaded in the sixth inning when Steve Schrenk, the Gulf Coast League Phillies pitching coach, jogged to the mound to tell Halladay, out of game action since May because of right shoulder surgery, that he was giving the pitcher in the bullpen time to warm up.
"I told him I was finishing the inning," Halladay said. "So we had a little bit of a - not a disagreement - but I was going to finish the inning."
And finish he did, striking out two straight batters to end the threat and complete his start against the Gulf Coast League Pirates. In six innings, Halladay, 36, threw 87 pitches, more than the scheduled 75 to 80, and threw 51 for strikes. He allowed three runs, including a solo home run, struck out four, and walked three.
After the game, Halladay said he feels as though he's improving.
"From the simulated game [Saturday] to today, I felt like my location was better," Halladay said. "I didn't feel like I got as tired. I still feel like there's more in there."
Halladay said more than 80 to 85 percent of his pitches were sinkers and cutters.
"There were times when I'd get in a groove and miss two or three," he said. "For the most part, they were on the halves of the plate that I wanted them to, and we were able to work both sides of the plate more so than in the [simulated] game."
His velocity sat in the mid 80s throughout the afternoon and peaked at 86 m.p.h., which were results consistent with a bullpen session on Monday. Halladay's fastball velocity during his 2010 and 2011 seasons averaged 92 m.p.h. But Halladay's focus Thursday was not on velocity but on rhythm and mechanics.
"I'm just very cautious about making sure I'm repeating my mechanics correctly right now, and I don't want to try to add on until I'm repeating every time," he said.
The next step in his recovery is to see how he feels after a bullpen session. If he bounces back well, he could start another rehab game in five days, though there is no official timetable. One possibility is Tuesday as the single-A Clearwater Threshers play at home.
Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr., who was not at the game, issued a statement afterward.
"I spoke with Roy today, and with people who were there to evaluate him, and they feel that he continues to make progress. He is not as crisp as he wants to be yet. It is likely that he will have at least one more rehab start.
"He is scheduled to throw a bullpen in Philadelphia on Saturday, and we'll know where he will pitch on Tuesday once he completes that session."
Earlier in the week, Amaro said that, barring setbacks, he could see Halladay returning to the Phillies during their Aug. 23-25 home series against the Arizona Diamondbacks.
"I'm not going to get too far ahead of myself, but I feel good," Halladay said of his progress. "I feel like each time has gotten better and better, so as long as I continue in that direction, I'm fine with that."
Halladay's first five innings were quiet as he faced only three batters over the minimum and ran into little trouble aside from an RBI triple to deep center field in the fifth.
His command wavered in the sixth, however. After giving up a home run with one out, Halladay allowed a walk, a single, and another walk. Then the pitching coach paid him a visit.