CLEARWATER, Fla. - The toughest part, Roy Halladay said, was the questions he would face after each start.
Do you really want to leave? Do you want to go somewhere else? What's it going to be like to leave?
Trade rumors followed Halladay throughout his 2009 season with Toronto, just as they have lingered this spring over Phillies pitcher Cole Hamels. Halladay said then he wanted to play for a winner, which is what Hamels told USA Today before reporting to camp.
There was a trade market then for Halladay, just as there is one now for Hamels. The Blue Jays would not settle for anything less than a prospect-heavy package, which appears to be the case with the Phillies now. Toronto failed to move Halladay before the trade deadline in 2009 and the process was "an absolute grind," Halladay said.
"You're pitching for your team. You're pitching for yourself. You're pitching for the rest of your career. But you're not really pitching for anything," said Halladay, who was sent to the Phillies three months after the 2009 season.
Halladay, 37, arrived in camp Monday morning, just in time to see Hamels start a 16-4 loss to the Baltimore Orioles. Hamels said the best pitch he threw was the one Chris Davis crushed to center field for a three-run homer in the first inning. The lefthander allowed five runs on six hits in two innings.
Hamels said when he talks to Halladay, they don't talk about baseball. Instead, Hamels said Halladay updates him on his children and their hobbies. Halladay coaches his sons' baseball teams.
"I think I was around him enough during the season to learn about his work ethic and his ability to attack hitters and get guys out and that competitiveness that he had," Hamels said. "I was able to take a lot from him."
Halladay was 32 in 2009, a year older than Hamels is now. Hamels' performance last season was similar to - if not better than - Halladay's output in 2009.
Toronto weighed offers from the Angels, Cardinals, Dodgers, Yankees, and almost every other team. Halladay started the All-Star Game in St. Louis that season and heard chants from Cardinals fans. Everyone seemed to want Toronto's ace. It was crazy, Halladay said.
The same fervor could follow Hamels this season if he remains with the Phillies.
And the Phillies are seeking a Halladay-like return in any potential deal. Winning the Halladay sweepstakes cost the Phillies three of their top five prospects.
Halladay returned to play against Toronto in his second season with the Phillies. He said he was fortunate to be well received - Halladay said he expected to leave and be hated. He wishes he could give Hamels some advice, but he's not sure how he did it.
Maybe Halladay could advise him on how to answer those questions, because the trade winds are not blowing away.
An Ace and Not Much Else
Cole Hamels last year and Roy Halladay in his final year with the Blue Jays were standout starters on bad teams with little else to brag about. Here is a comparison of Halladay and the Blue Jays in 2009, and Hamels and the Phillies in 2014:
9-9 Record 17-10
2.46 ERA 2.79
73-89 Team Record 75-87