"Coming here was a dream," Halladay told MLB.com. "The last two years really haven't worked out the way I wanted, or really the team wanted. So I want to win here. I want to be a part of it. Hopefully we keep ourselves in a spot where we can contend this year and I can come back and help. I'm not looking to go somewhere else. I feel like this is where I wanted to be and I still want to be here. You definitely want to win."
This is going to be an evaluation period of sorts for the Phillies and Halladay, who becomes a free agent following the season. The club will want to see if Halladay, 36, can come back and pitch effectively before it considers bringing him back next season. Halladay went 40-16 with a 2.40 ERA and 17 complete games in 65 starts from 2010-11, but is 13-12 with a 5.24 ERA and one complete game in 32 starts from 2012-13.
But Halladay also might want to see how the Phillies fare the final 2 1/2 months of the season. If they trade top talent to rebuild for the future, Halladay might feel he has a better opportunity to win elsewhere. If the team buys, he might think this team can keep winning and give him the World Series ring he covets.
"I expect to be normal," he said, when asked about his expectations on the mound. "I expect to throw the way I did the first couple years. I don't have that discomfort. Even at times it wasn't discomfort, it was just a lot of work. It was a lot of laboring. I don't have that any more. That's done. Really, like the first couple years I was here, I feel probably better than I did then really. I haven't had any setbacks, knock on wood. Things have progressed well. I'm pretty happy about that."
Halladay is only long tossing, so plenty of work remains. He said he is not sure when he will begin to throw from the mound, but even when that happens, he will need to build up arm strength before he rejoins the Phillies.
Dodgers physician Neal ElAttrache performed Halladay's surgery in May. He told Halladay the surgery could make him feel a few years younger.
Halladay said he does.
"We're going out and throwing four days in a row from 120 feet, 70 throws," he said. "I haven't been able to do that in a long time without being fatigued and really laboring through it. So that's nice, really compared to throwing this winter, all the work we did. We came a long ways. I felt a lot better, but it's night and day compared to this."
If the Phillies keep winning, Halladay could return in August or September and pitch in meaningful games. Or he could look around the diamond and see Cesar Hernandez at second instead of Chase Utley and Cody Asche at third instead of Michael Young.
He also could see a new manager and pitching coach following the season. Manager Charlie Manuel and pitching coach Rich Dubee are in the final years of their contracts.
"He's been great for me," Halladay said of Dubee. "I feel he's been great for a lot of guys. Kyle Kendrick, Cole Hamels, he's developed a lot of guys. I think he's earned his stripes. I've loved him. I've always loved him. I definitely want to see him back."
But what makes him confident the Phillies can be winners in 2014 and beyond, regardless of what happens this season?
"I think the city, the team, everything really makes this … it has to be a winning franchise here," he said. "They have to put contenders out there. That's big. That's not the case everywhere. I think there are definitely times when you have to get younger, and you have to see some of your younger players and develop some of your younger players, but I don't think that necessarily means that they're going to be in a decline or it's going to be a long stint of rebuilding. I really don't feel that way.
"I think they're bringing in younger players, [but] at the same time, we have a veteran core. I really hope a lot of things stick and we add some new pieces. The Domonic Browns and players like that are what you want to see and have to have to continue to win for a long time."
A big-time ace isn't bad, either.