Seasoned fans won't shrug off this news, because they know that it could indicate that trouble is ahead.
That Cardinals' series
At the exact end of last season, first baseman Ryan Howard tore his left Achilles' tendon in the National League Division Series finale against the St. Louis Cardinals. Within an instant, the Phillies (who had just set a franchise record (102) for regular season wins) were knocked out of the opening playoff round and saw their cleanup hitter writhing on the ground in pain.
As the 2012 season has been winding down, this season's team has at least provided a spirited Wild Card run through most of September. That positive development has been fueled by the relatively healthy status of the men who are on their roster, which also bodes well for 2013.
Halladay obviously remains a key to next year's staff and thus to the Phillies' overall chances. While his current predicament is hardly as dramatic as Howard's was, there's no way to predict what his condition will be like by the time next spring arrives. An offseason of rest didn't help him heading into this season, now did it?
Alive and throwing
No one should brush off what has happened to 'Doc' this year.
The difference between Vance Worley's elbow surgery and Halladay's latest physical issue can't be simply boiled down to these two numbers: 2,720.33 and 279. Those amounts represent the combined total number of regular season and postseason innings that Halladay and Worley have pitched in their careers. Obviously, there's no need to define who owns each amount.
Some people like to reference the 'good old days', when pitchers threw more innings per season and as a result, in their careers, than today's pitchers do. Those comparisons don't change the fact that the mound men who are alive and throwing today have been shaped by this era and are dealing with today's conditions.
Heading into this offseason, the Phillies currently have three healthy starters: Cole Hamels, Cliff Lee and Kyle Kendrick. Rookie Tyler Cloyd might return as well. He's only started five major league games, so his resume offers no guarantees.
Due to Worley's age (he turns 25 on September 25), we could optimistically assume that he will recover and rejoin the rotation. Halladay turns 36 next May. Far from being finished, it also can't be assumed that he will revert to his well-known form by the time the 2013 season arrives.
This was an unusual year for a variety of reasons. If the Phillies are to make a stronger playoff push next season, a healthy Halladay will need to be a prominent part of the starting rotation.
Sean O'Brien's professional writing career began in 1990, when he first began working in the Philadelphia Phillies farm system. He was a freelance sports writer for five years and is currently a Featured Contributor for Yahoo! Sports. You can follow him on Twitter @SeanyOB and read his daily Sports Blog: Insight.
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