Roy Halladay pitch in Clearwater, Florida on Saturday. (Photo by: Getty Images)
Roy Halladay pitch in Clearwater, Florida on Saturday. (Photo by: Getty Images)

Roy Halladay is moving closer toward a return to Philadelphia.

Halladay will begin a minor league assignment Thursday with the Phillies' Gulf Coast league affiliate..

If all goes well, Halladay could pitch again for the Phillies this season, and possibly beyond.  Halladay was cleared after he made it through a five-inning simulated game over the weekend.

Halladay threw 30 pitches in a bullpen session before Wednesday's game against the Chicago Cubs. Halladay said he was encouraged that his rehabilitation has gone well and hoped to pitch again this season.

He had surgery on his right shoulder in May to repair a partially torn rotator cuff and remove a bone spur. He also has some fraying of the labrum. Because of the injury, Halladay pitched nothing like an ace and is 2-4 with an 8.65 ERA in seven starts this season.

"I'm not interested in coming back and pitching at the same level I was earlier this year," he said. "I want to come back and pitch at a high level."

Halladay earned $20 million this season and is set to become a free agent. The Phillies entered Wednesday 10 games under .500 and are one of the biggest disappointments in baseball. Halladay, who threw a no-hitter in the 2010 playoffs, said he'd like to return to the Phillies in 2014.

"Quite obviously, it's my first choice if everything goes the way I feel it's going to go," he said.

The 35-year-old right-hander said he's had no setback and was encouraged by his progress. There is no timetable for his return.

"I want to make sure that when I start my rehab assignment, I'm able to compete at a high level," he said. "I don't want to necessarily treat it as a spring training type of thing. I feel like I'm getting close to that now, where I can compete that way. I want to go out and pitch in those games and compete the same way I would here, so I know where I stand."

The Phillies won five straight division titles from 2007-2011, including the 2008 World Series. Halladay went 21-10 and threw a perfect game against the Marlins in his 2010, his first season in Philadelphia. He's 201-104 with a 3.37 ERA in 15 seasons with Toronto and Philadelphia.

He wants to finish strong and prove he can come close to regaining his ace form.

"I'm not worried about next year. I want to come back and pitch," he said. "I just want to come back and pitch and be a part of things, be effective."