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No rust on Halladay in spring debut

No rust on Halladay in spring debut
blue jaysEven as the Blue Jays and Braves trudged through the middle innings of yesterday's spring training game, B.J. Ryan was already trying to put the 6-3 loss behind him.

While ace Roy Halladay looked sharp in his two-inning debut, Ryan looked rusty for a second straight appearance. Pitching the third inning, the Jays' closer retired just two batters while giving up two hits, three walks and four runs.

The game was Ryan's last with the Jays for a while as he now joins the U.S. national team to prepare for next week's World Baseball Classic.

"I would have liked to have left here on a better note than that," said Ryan, who saved 32 games in 36 opportunities last season. "(But) in terms of where I think I need to be and where I am, it's closer than it looks."

But even after Ryan's second consecutive lacklustre outing, and even with him leaving the team tomorrow, Jays manager Cito Gaston insists it's too early to worry about whether Ryan will be ready when the Jays open the season April 6 at home against Detroit.

"He'll get himself together, we've got a long way to go here," Gaston said. "He's just rushing himself a little bit. He's hard on himself, but evidently it's not all bad because he has been pretty successful."

Halladay also stressed that February games are less about winning than they are about preparing for the season. And heading into March, it looks like Toronto's No.1 starter is a little further along than their shutdown closer.

On a starting staff awash in uncertainty, Halladay enters the season as the one constant.

He won the 2003 Cy Young award and finished second in American League Cy Young voting last year after recording 20 wins, 206 strikeouts and a league-high nine complete games.

He said he entered yesterday's game wanting simply to work on his sinker and changeup, a pitch in which the five-time all-star says he's still gaining confidence.

"I was real happy with the changeup (and) fastball location," he said.

"It probably wasn't as good as I would have liked, but it was good enough today."

Halladay faced eight batters, striking out the first two.

Halladay skipped the World Baseball Classic to concentrate on spring training. And judging by his handling of the second-stringers the Braves fielded yesterday, Gaston liked what he saw.

"Doc looked like he was ready to go, huh?" he said. "He's all business."

Ryan, meanwhile, insists he's quickly approaching game shape even though he struggled to throw strikes yesterday.

At this point last year, the 6-foot-6 southpaw was still trying to strengthen his pitching arm after undergoing Tommy John surgery in May of 2007.

He says last season's combination of pitching and rehab left him exhausted by season's end, but doesn't see that happening again.

Unlike Halladay, who plans to work different pitches into his repertoire as the pre-season progresses, Ryan says he uses his two main pitches - fastball and slider - throughout training camp, refining them during the regular season.

"I'm a guy that works at what I'm going to do through the year, from the beginning of the spring on."

Author:Fox Sports
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Added: March 2, 2009

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