On Thursday, even with Halladay tinkering around with a new approach, the Blue Jays' ace was in familar form for his club's Spring Training opener against the Red Sox at Knology Park. Halladay recorded six outs -- all via grounders -- and called it a day after two crisp frames.
"That's typical with Doc out there," Toronto center fielder Vernon Wells said. "You kind of just bring a lawn chair and have fun and watch. That's how it's been over the last few years. I'd rather have it that way than any other way."
Even though the infielders always prepare for a busy workload on days Halladay takes the mound, they say that's how they prefer things, too. Just ask Aaron Hill, who scooped up one of the sharp grounders that Halladay induced against a Boston lineup that lacked its regular star power.
"You know with Doc you're going to get 10 ground balls in a game," Hill said. "You're on your toes and you're never out there waiting too long. You always have to be in the game. That's why you see a lot of great plays made behind Doc, too."
An example came in the second inning, when Boston catcher George Kottaras, who is from the Toronto area, sent one of Halladay's pitches sharply down the first-base line. Blue Jays first baseman Lyle Overbay made an impressive diving grab and forced Kottaras out.
"Overbay made a big play," Halladay said. "I wouldn't mind him saving those for the season. That saves a few pitches down here, I guess."
Halladay exited the game after throwing 27 pitches, including 19 strikes, and allowing just one hit -- a double in the first inning by former Blue Jay Eric Hinske. The former American League Cy Young Award winner didn't spend any extra time in the bullpen afterwards, because the plan going in was to try for around 30 pitches.
The home opener provided the first opportunity for Halladay to begin practicing a new style in a game situation. He's focusing on throwing more fastballs and changeups in an effort to rely less on his cutter, which led to the strained right forearm late last season.
"That's a different approach he's taking this year," Toronto manager John Gibbons said. "He's intense with his work, but he's not breaking out all his game stuff too early. He's conserving that a little bit."
Halladay still plans on working more cutters into the mix when Toronto gets deeper into the Spring Training schedule. During the season, though, he wants to use the sinking fastball on both sides of the plate and in situations when he used to depend heavily on the cutter.
"I feel like there's some things I want to work on this spring -- some new things," Halladay said. "Getting out and trying them a little bit is nice. ... I want to be able to rely on those two [pitches] and get better at using them and get better at getting out of jams with them."
Oneupmanship: After he exited Thursday's game, Blue Jays third baseman Troy Glaus walked into the clubhouse and threw up his arms as he approached Hill's locker.
"What, you trying to show me up?" said a laughing Glaus, referring to the two-run home run that Hill sent over the left-field wall in the fourth inning.
In the third inning, Glaus -- Toronto's leader in homers last year with 38 -- sent a pitch from Boston right-hander Devern Hansack deep to left, but the ball sailed foul by a few feet as it disappeared into the trees. Hansack then yielded Hill's blast an inning later, but the second baseman wasn't about to give Glaus any advice.
"I'm the last guy that's going to be talking about home runs," said Hill, who had all of six a year ago. "Those are lucky for me. That's [Glaus'] job. He does that for a living."
Injury updates: Gibbons was leaning toward keeping Alex Rios out of Thursday's lineup, but the outfielder's right shoulder felt good enough for him to serve as Toronto's designated hitter against the Red Sox. In the first inning, Rios doubled off Boston left-hander Kason Gabbard and later scored on a groundbout by Wells.
Rios is also the only Jays starter making the trip to Fort Myers, Fla., on Friday to take on the Red Sox. He'll likely remain in the lineup as the DH to protect his right arm. Gibbons wasn't sure when Rios would return to right field.
Outfielder Reed Johnson sat out on Thursday because of a stiff back. Gibbons said that it would still be a few days before Johnson was inserted back into the lineup.
One more: The Blue Jays have added an extra game to their spring schedule. Toronto will play a "B" game against Philadelphia at 10 a.m. ET on Monday in Clearwater, Fla., but the game isn't considered an official Spring Training game. Also on Monday, the Jays host the Pirates at 1:05 p.m. ET in an official Grapefruit League contest at Knology Park.
Quotable: "It's always good to have the big dog out there." -- Hill, on Halladay
Coming up: Toronto left-hander Gustavo Chacin is scheduled to take the mound against Boston right-hander Kyle Snyder when the Blue Jays take on the Red Sox at 12:30 p.m. ET on Friday at City of Palms Park in Fort Myers, Fla.
Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less