Sure enough, Halladay indicated that the mild groin strain that had been bothering him for the past two weeks has disappeared, and the Jays ace feels taking the mound for a start against the Rays on Monday will not be a problem. That development did not come as a surprise for Gaston.
"I expected him to come in and say he was OK," Gaston said. "He's been feeling better all the time, so it was just one of those things that he just wanted to make sure."
Prior to Friday's game against the Phillies, Halladay played catch in left field with Blue Jays pitching coach Brad Arnsberg before heading to the mound in the bullpen. With head trainer George Poulis watching nearby, Halladay worked through more than 50 pitches during a 10-minute session, making sure to test out all of the pitches in his arsenal.
The bullpen session only confirmed Halladay's feeling that he was recovered enough to be activated from the 15-day DL on Monday. Rookie left-hander Brad Mills appears to be the most likely candidate to be optioned back to Triple-A Las Vegas in order to clear room on the roster for Halladay.
"I feel good. I feel it's completely gone," Halladay said. "So, we'll carry on with the plan, and I think pitch Monday is what we're going to do from here. I felt good. I was encouraged. It was a full bullpen -- full effort -- and I didn't feel anything."
Halladay said the bigger test came on Tuesday, when he worked through a shorter mound session at Rogers Centre. Going into that stint in the bullpen, the right-hander was not having issues with the groin injury when playing catch on flat ground, but there was still some lingering discomfort when he pitched off a mound.
After that session went well, Halladay expected to come out of Friday's routine ready to start on Monday as hoped. On Thursday, Halladay also tested his legs during some pregame running drills, and he was able to add lifting weights with his legs to his schedule this week, as well.
"Throwing the short side the other day, I didn't feel that," said Halladay, referring to discomfort in his groin. "So, I felt like I was over it. For me, it was more ... kind of getting into a regular five-day routine. I thought the last bullpen was more of a test for me than today. I felt pretty good about how I was going to feel.
"It's always frustrating when you have setbacks. I think it's always a sense of relief once you kind of feel like you're over it. I feel like that's where I'm at now, and it's kind of get back to the business at hand."
Halladay felt a sharp pain during his second pitch in the top of the fourth inning of Toronto's 7-3 loss to Florida on June 12. He attempted a warmup pitch in front of Gaston and Poulis, but the pitcher exited after still feeling some soreness. The Jays hoped Halladay would be able to return last weekend, but ultimately decided to give him a few extra days to rest.
Even after missing the past two weeks, Halladay is currently tied for the Major League lead with 10 victories. The 2003 American League Cy Young Award winner also boasts a 2.53 ERA, and he has turned in three complete games in 14 outings.
Prior to that injury-shortened appearance, Halladay had turned in at least seven innings in his 13 previous starts and was coming off two consecutive complete-game performances. Over his past 10 trips up the hill, including his injury-shortened no-decision, Halladay has gone 7-0 with a 2.07 ERA, 62 strikeouts and nine walks over 74 innings.
Needless to say, the Blue Jays are thrilled to have Halladay ready to rejoin the rotation.
"It's always nice to have Doc back," Gaston said. "We've hung in there and played pretty good without him, but we certainly would've been better with him. Any time you have a quality pitcher like Doc Halladay pitching for you, you come to the ballpark with a different feeling -- the players do. You play behind a pitcher who gives you a chance to win every time he goes out there.
"It's a different feeling all the way around for everybody. it's really nice to know that he's going to be OK and he's not going to miss six weeks, or six or seven starts, and that he's going to be able to pitch on Monday and hopefully help us win a ballgame."
Gaston added that he's not going to be worrying that the injury might flare up on Halladay.
"He says he's OK and whatever happens, happens," Gaston said. "There's not much you can do about it. He's not going to hold back. You know Doc -- he's going to give you everything he has out there. You just hope that it holds up for him and he feels better after the game is over."
Given the way Halladay has performed this season, he seems to be a virtual lock to represent the Blue Jays at the All-Star Game in St. Louis in July 14. Halladay will also be in the discussion as a possible starter for the American League's elite squad.
Halladay said it's too early to say whether this recent injury would influence his decision on whether to take part in the Midsummer Classic.
"To me, it's something that I think you deal with once you get closer," Halladay said. "If it does come up, how do you feel and kind of go from there. I think at this point, I know it's only two or three weeks away, but that's a distant future for me right now."
Gaston said the club won't hold Halladay back if he's selected to pitch in the All-Star Game.
"I would never do that," Gaston said. "I think that it's quite an honor to be picked or play in an All-Star Game. It'll certainly be all up to Doc. If he didn't want to go, that would be his choice. It certainly wouldn't be mine. I can't see anyway that he's going to get around not going to the All-Star Game.
"If he wants to go pitch, let him go and pitch."
Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less