Citing a desire to avoid surgery for an ailing back and wanting to spend more time with his family, two-time Cy Young Award winner Roy Halladay retired Monday after 16 seasons in the major leagues with the Toronto Blue Jays and Philadelphia Phillies.
The 36-year-old right-hander signed a one-day contract to retire as a member of the Blue Jays, where he spent the first 12 years of his career.
He choked up and held back tears while making the announcement at a news conference at the winter meetings in Lake Buena Vista, Fla.
"As a baseball player, you realize that's something you can't do the rest of your life," Halladay said. "I really don't have any regrets."
Halladay played for the Phillies from 2010-13, finishing with two injury-plagued seasons. He won an NL Cy Young Award in 2010, throwing a perfect game that season and a no-hitter in his first postseason appearance.
Halladay was 203-105 with a 3.38 ERA in 416 career games, including 390 starts. He had 67 complete games and 20 shutouts.
"It's been a very exciting process for me," he said. "I feel very good about it. There's always going to be things I miss. As much as I worked out, I'm not going to miss it. I'm not going to miss the cuffed weights and running poles."
Halladay was a six-time All-Star, won the 2003 AL Cy Young Award and went 148-76 with a 3.43 ERA in 12 seasons with the Blue Jays.
He was traded to the Phillies after the 2009 season, and was 40-16 with a 2.40 ERA in his first two years in Philadelphia. But back and shoulder issues limited Halladay in 2012-13. He was 15-13 with a 5.15 ERA in 38 starts.
Former teammates were effusive in their praise for Halladay.
Chase Utley called him "the ultimate competitor."
"He is by far the hardest worker that I've ever seen and treated every game as if it were his last," Utley said. "It was no coincidence why he was the best pitcher of his era. I'm honored to have had the opportunity to watch him pitch for four years. I'll miss his presence and passion but, most of all, I will miss his intensity."
Roy Oswalt said Halladay was a first-ballot Hall of Famer.
"Roy was one of the best pitchers and students of the game I've ever had the honor of playing with," Oswalt said. "Hands down, he was the best pitcher of this era."
Halladay had shoulder surgery during the season and returned in September, but clearly wasn't right. He was 4-5 with a 6.82 ERA in 13 starts this year.
"It's so much fun to play the game and go out and compete," he said. "I looked forward to that fifth day more than anything. To go out there and know it's not going to feel good and I wasn't going to do it the way I wanted was frustrating. I tried to give everything I can but something was holding me back. I felt I couldn't give them what I wanted to."
Halladay badly wanted to play for the Phillies to have a chance at winning the World Series. The Phillies had already won three straight division championships, the 2008 World Series and 2009 NL championship by the time Halladay arrived. They had the best record in the majors in Halladay's first two seasons, but lost to the San Francisco Giants in the 2010 NLCS and St. Louis Cardinals in the 2011 NL division series.