Tonawanda News

April 11, 2014

Happ happy with rehab start

By Dave Ricci
The Tonawanda News

Tonawanda News — BUFFALO — J.A. Happ is just looking for a return to normalcy. 

Happ, a 31-year-old lefty from the Toronto Blue Jays, made his first rehab start with the Buffalo Bisons on Thursday against the Pawtucket Red Sox. Happ went 4 2/3 innings and left with a no decision in the fifth. He struck out six and threw 63 of his 90 pitches for strikes.

Happ yielded one run on four hits and two walks and left with the game tied 1-1 in the fifth inning when he reached his pitch count of 90.

“I felt pretty good,” Happ said. “The whole goal is to get up there (to Toronto). Get enough pitches, feel good the whole time. Feel healthy the whole time. Feel strong.”

It was the second rehab start this season for Happ who opened the season on the disabled list due to lower back tightness.

Happ tossed five innings for Single-A Dunedin against Clearwater on April 5. Happ surrendered two runs on three hits and one walk while striking out five.

Pleased with that outing, Happ said the bigger issue was being pain free the day after he pitched.

Happ set the tone early against the Sox with a strong first inning that saw him throw 10 of his 12 pitches for strikes, recording two strike outs along the way.

His slider and curve were effective, and his fastball had bite as he fearlessly pounded the strike zone all night.

“I was definitely trying to get ahead and stay ahead. Instead of getting ahead and before you know it, it’s (a 3-2 count),” said Happ. “So I was trying to be aggressive and stay aggressive.”

Happ made the Blue Jays Opening Day roster last year, going 2-2 with a respectable 3.98 ERA in his first six starts when his season took a horrific turn. Happ was hit in the head by a hit ball off the bat of Tampa Bay’s Desmond Jennings on May 7 and sustained not only a fractured skull from the line drive, but also a sprained knee when he fell to the ground

The knee injury was actually a greater concern for Happ going forward. Happ was on the DL for three months. He made three rehab starts with the Bisons (July 23-Aug. 5) going 0-2, 6.75 ERA. Happ finished 2013 with a 5-7 record and 4.56 ERA with Toronto.

The fourth inning presented some adversity for Happ, who was tagged for a lead off home run by Brad Snyder, tying the game at 1-1. Happ responded with back-to-back strike outs as he set down the next three batters.

“I didn’t want to lose that aggressiveness after that,” Happ said. “He did a good job. That was a good piece of hitting, A change-up, he kind of went out and got it. I wouldn’t call it a bad pitch. He put a really good swing on it and went and got it.”

The Blue Jays have not given timetable for how long Happ will be with the Bisons.