The two-time Cy Young Award winner has missed the past seven weeks with a strained right lat muscle, one reason the Phillies have faded to last place in the NL East after five straight division titles.
After making a rehab start for Class-A Clearwater last week, Halladay is scheduled to come off the disabled list Tuesday night against the Los Angeles Dodgers.
"He's the anchor of the staff, man," Phillies left fielder Juan Pierre said Monday. "Everybody looks to him (for leadership). He doesn't say much, but you know what he can do when he goes out there because of his work ethic. (Cole) Hamels and (Cliff) Lee are both tremendous guys, but Roy's the anchor. So to get him back is going to be a big boost, just like getting Ryan Howard back was a couple of weeks ago."
Halladay is 4-5 with a 3.98 ERA in 11 starts. The eight-time All-Star hasn't pitched for the Phillies since May 27, when he faced 11 batters over two innings and gave up a grand slam to Yadier Molina during an 8-3 loss to St. Louis.
The 35-year-old right-hander was diagnosed with a latissimus dorsi strain.
"It put a lot of pressure on everybody - the offense, the pitching staff and the bullpen," Pierre said. "When you lose him, it's like the Tigers losing (Justin) Verlander. That's the guy you count on for innings, and he's a guy who's going to compete. Even if he doesn't win, he's going to keep you right in the game. So it's definitely good to have him back."
Halladay made a successful rehab start Thursday for Clearwater and threw a bullpen session Saturday with no problems. He didn't think another rehab start was necessary, which suited manager Charlie Manuel just fine.
"Roy's pitched a lot of baseball, so I think he probably knows himself a lot better than we do," Manuel said. "When he says he doesn't think he needs it, I trust him and I believe him."
Halladay hasn't been given a set pitch limit, but will be monitored closely by Manuel and pitching coach Rich Dubee.
"I'd say six innings would be realistic, probably. But we'll see," Manuel said. "We'll probably work off him. It depends on how many pitches it takes him to get there, but Dubee will be corresponding with him once he reached a certain level of concern. If he's healthy and can work back up to where he can go eight innings or finish a game, I would project that he's going to win a lot of games for us."
Halladay has a career record after the All-Star break of 74-44 in 147 starts with a 3.06 ERA. And with the Phillies entering Monday night's series opener against the Dodgers 14 games out of first place with a 39-51 record, the return of their veteran ace gives them hope that they can still salvage the season.
Halladay came to the Phillies in a trade with Toronto before the 2010 season and got a $60 million, three-year contract. Needless to say, his teammates are looking forward to Tuesday night's outing against the Dodgers.
"It lifts your spirits to know that you're going to have him back in the rotation, so we're thrilled to have him back," right fielder Hunter Pence said. "It's a lot of fun to play behind him because he picks up the position players with his energy and his effort. You know what's on the line because of what he's put in, so you want to do everything you can to help him win a game. There's no one who works harder. Just having him around during his injury made a difference because of his knowledge."
Halladay entered this season with a major league-leading 170 victories, 18 shutouts and 63 complete games since the start of the 2002 season, including three seasons of 20 or more wins. He also threw two no-hitters for the Phillies in 2010 - one in the postseason, and a perfect game less than five months earlier.
"Anytime you can get Roy out there, it's always good," said Howard, who returned to the active roster July 6 after missing the first 84 games because of the ruptured left Achilles tendon he sustained while grounding out for the final out of last year's NL division series against the Cardinals.
"We've wanted him to be back and healthy and to just be himself - no more, no less. Just pitch and compete and give us an opportunity to win ballgames," the slugger added. "He's meant a lot to us. He's been a key in helping us to win some of those division titles. So we're going to take it and try to run with it."