CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Roy Halladay made his first start in more than three months on Thursday, another "encouraging" step in his recovery from right shoulder surgery.
Pitching for the Rookie-level GCL Phillies, Halladay gave up three runs on six hits and three walks while striking out four over six innings. The 36-year-old right-hander threw 87 pitches, 51 of them for strikes, and induced 10 groundouts compared to just one flyout against the GCL Pirates at the Carpenter Complex.
Halladay's velocity sat in the mid-80s, mostly at 86 mph, for most of the afternoon. He said afterward that he felt good in his first game action since May 5. Halladay added that he's mostly focused now on repeating his delivery and correcting the bad mechanical habits he developed while pitching through a partially torn rotator cuff, frayed labrum and bone spurs in his right shoulder. The rest of it will come later.
"I think we've been very good at the whole way. But I've noticed at times when I do try to add, occasionally I'll go back to some of those. That's something I've really been trying to avoid to this point," Halladay said. "I want to make sure that I can repeat over and over and do it as consistently as possible, and then add [power] with my lower half, which is what I need to do instead of adding upper half like I had been in the past."
Halladay is scheduled to throw a bullpen session Saturday before making another Minor League rehab start on Tuesday.
"I spoke with Roy today, and with people who were there to evaluate him, and they feel that he continues to make progress," general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said in a statement. "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 [session] in Philadelphia on Saturday, and we'll know where he will pitch on Tuesday once he completes that session."
Following Halladay's start on Tuesday, the Phillies will decide his next step, and it very well could be a return to Philadelphia's rotation. After going 2-4 with an 8.65 ERA in seven starts before heading to the disabled list, Halladay said he was "looking forward" to being able to rejoin the club.
"From the simulated game to today, I felt like my location was better. I didn't feel like I got as tired," Halladay said. "I still feel like there's more in there, but I'm just very cautious of making sure I'm repeating my mechanics correctly right now. I don't want to try to add on until I'm repeating every time. That's important for me. I'm still breaking those habits, and I feel like I'm doing a good job of it. I want to continue doing that before I really start to add on from time to time. I want to make sure I do it the right way."
On Thursday, that meant focusing on throwing primarily sinkers and cutters, with Halladay estimating they accounted for 80-85 percent of his pitches. He breezed through a perfect first inning before allowing a single but nothing more in both the second and third. He then erased a fourth-inning walk by inducing a double-play grounder.
Halladay's final two innings of work were more of a reminder that he's not quite Major League-ready yet, but there were also positives to be found in each frame. He gave up a run on a single and a triple, but he limited the damage, inducing a ground ball that shortstop J.P. Crawford fielded and tossed home for the forceout.
In the sixth, Halladay served up a long solo homer to Ulises Montilla before loading the bases on two walks and a single. With the bases still loadeed following a chopper to the first baseman, pitching coach Steve Schrenk came out to speak with Halladay, who had thrown 80 pitches at that point -- his expected limit.
But Halladay had received permission from Amaro Jr. to pitch until he felt he was done. So he told Schrenk in no uncertain terms, "I was going to finish the inning." At that point, Halladay began pitching a lot more like his old self, striking out his final two batters.
"He was trying to take me out when the game started getting fun," Halladay said. "I wanted to get the pitches up a little bit, get a chance to work out of the stretch and get a chance to work on pitching out of jams. Up until that point, there really wasn't a whole lot of excitement. So it was good."
The Phillies will continue to closely monitor the two-time Cy Young Award winner's status, as they must decide whether they want to re-sign him when he becomes a free agent after the season. But for now, Halladay is encouraged with his progress while awaiting the next step.
"I am not going to get too far ahead of myself, but I feel good and I feel like each time has gotten better and better," Halladay said. "So as long as I continue in that direction, I'm fine with that."
Adam Berry is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @adamdberry.