American League starting pitcher Roy Halladay

AL start puts focus on Jays ace Roy Halladay at all-star game

ST. LOUIS — As much as he tries to avoid the issue, as much as he tries to act like everything is business as usual, Roy Halladay sure seems like someone who has one foot in, and one foot out the Toronto Blue Jays clubhouse right now

ST. LOUIS — As much as he tries to avoid the issue, as much as he tries to act like everything is business as usual, Roy Halladay sure seems like someone who has one foot in, and one foot out the Toronto Blue Jays clubhouse right now.

The ace right-hander was given the honour of starting for the American League in today’s all-star game, yet all anyone wanted to ask him about was his availability on the trade market and his thoughts on a bevy of rumoured destinations.

In answering the endless questions Monday it’s clear that Halladay is a torn man, struggling with his burning desire to pitch in the post-season and his longstanding preference to do it for the Blue Jays.

He wants the latter but isn’t likely to get it, so he’ll consider a move to fulfil the former. And as the frenzy over his future plays out — heightened with the media horde’s assembly in St. Louis this week — he finds himself being pulled both ways.

“I’m trying to keep my head out of it either way, as opposed to trying to think of where you would want to go and all that stuff,” Halladay said when asked if he felt like these were his final days with the Blue Jays.

“That gets complicated, so I’m trying to keep emotions out of it, as much as I can.”

That’s only going to get tougher and tougher to do, as even at the news conference introducing him and San Francisco Giants ace Tim Lincecum as the Midsummer Classic’s starting pitchers, host Bob Costas got in on the action, saying Halladay was “representing, at least for now, the Toronto Blue Jays.”

Halladay met the crack with an uncomfortable laugh, but posturing by various suitors and the Blue Jays aside, that seems to be the prevailing feeling around the game.

Even Halladay seems to be coming to terms with it, as despite his repeated assertions that it’s still too early for him to consider which teams he’d accept a move to (he has a full no-trade clause), he did say that playing in a major media market like New York, Boston, Philadelphia or Los Angeles wouldn’t be a problem for him.

Neither would switching leagues, quashing a couple of questions insiders had wondered about.

“I’d rather hit than have to face (Derek) Jeter, A-Rod, (Hideki) Matsui, (Mark) Teixeira and all the other guys (in the AL East),” quipped Halladay.

The tipping point for him will be based primarily on a team’s ability to win.

“There’s a point in your career where you know you need to take a chance and try and win,” he said. “I’ve always hoped that’s going to be Toronto and I’ve believed in what we’ve done, it could still be, but I think at this point I’m ready to take a chance of trying to win.

“I honestly hope that’s in Toronto.”

That doesn’t seem likely, particularly after general manager J.P. Ricciardi invited offers for the 32-year-old last week. Ownership would have been notified of his plans in advance, and someone as savvy as Ricciardi wouldn’t waste the time of his bosses with a whim.

What it all means for the club’s long-term plans is unclear, but you don’t deal Halladay with an eye toward making a run in baseball’s toughest division next year. Also unknown is what’s driving this for the Blue Jays, a desire to strip all the way down and rebuild, or some form of less painful retooling.

“It could be two-fold,” said Halladay. “Maybe we don’t have that chance and we do have to take a step back. Or they feel like this an opportune time to see what we can bring in and if we make this a stronger organization. I don’t think I can blame them either way.

“I’ve always kind of got the feeling from Day 1 that this was more of a kind of feel our way through it and see what’s out there and what can happen. So it can go either way.”

Halladay joins Dave Stieb (1983 and ’84) and David Wells (2000) as the only Blue Jays to start in the all-star game, perhaps one final highlight for the team’s fans.

He’ll be up against last year’s NL Cy Young Award winner, Lincecum, who is 10-2 with a 2.33 earned-run average. He made the all-star team for last season’s game at Yankee Stadium but was unable to pitch because he was ill.

“This is a great accomplishment for me,” said Lincecum, sporting a black-knit cap over his shaggy hair. “I think tomorrow the big thing is going to be just getting to the field. And after that, just getting on the field.”

If only things were that simple for Halladay.

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