Originally posted on Pro Sports Daily  |  Last updated 7/10/12

Fourteen games out of first place in the National League East, good news is relative for the Philadelphia Phillies.

When it comes to staff ace Roy Halladay, they'll take anything they can get.

Halladay is primed to begin a rehab assignment at Class-A Clearwater on Thursday, the beginning of his road back from the disabled list that began May 29 when he first experienced soreness in his right shoulder.

It's the latest minor victory along the way, which included clearing hurdles by throwing his first bullpen session after one full month of rest recently in Miami, after which Halladay said his shoulder has responded well.

"I've felt really good, don't have any soreness," Halladay said. "It's just a matter of really getting the pitches back up. Get used to throwing off the mound and getting the pitch count built back up."

There was some thought after the 33-pitch session in Miami and a simulated game at Citi Field in New York that Halladay might even forgo an official minor league rehab assignment in his path back to a major league game.

But he's spending the All-Star break in the Clearwater, Fla., where he maintains an offseason home and where the Phillies have spring training and minor league facilities.

"A lot of it depends on where I go during the All-Star break, what I can do over that time," Halladay said. "Whether it's throwing in Clearwater, or whatever it may be, I think I'll end up going down there and at least throwing. But I don't know if it's going to be long bullpens or what."

The Phillies had a 2.86 ERA among the starting rotation last season but have hovered near 5.00 since Halladay was sidelined. The second half could be a time of change, and not just Halladay's return, which comes on the heels of big bats Chase Utley and Ryan Howard being activated.

Outfielder Shane Victorino and left-hander Cole Hamels are two prominent names bouncing around the trade rumor mill -- right-hander Joe Blanton might also be moved -- and absent a strong run into late July, general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. will consider moving his valuable trade chips to reload for next season.

Any run at the first-place Washington Nationals (49-34) starts with better pitching. That means Halladay, Cliff Lee and Hamels must be razor-sharp.

"This whole process we've been going day to day, so there's not really like a (target date for his return)," he said. "Everything has gone really good. The next step, we'll go from there. I think that's a good way to approach it. If you get caught up with a set date, and if you're a little more sore than you anticipate, then you get yourself in trouble. I think we'll keep going day to day. I feel good. I haven't been sore yet. We'll keep advancing it and get as close to getting in a game as I can."

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