Much of the talk and speculation surrounding the Toronto Blue Jays thus far in Spring Training has been about the 5th spot in the rotation. Will Drew Hutchison or Kyle Drabek come back from Tommy John surgery to claim the spot? Will Esmil Rogers or Todd Redmond earn their way into the spot? Can Dustin McGowan be stretched out to be a starter? Can anyone fix Ricky Romero? Will Marcus Stroman or Aaron Sanchez be rushed to the big leagues to take the spot?
But, after today, there might be a bit more talk about the 4th spot in the Blue Jays pitching rotation. It has been all but a given that J.A. Happ would be given the ball behind R.A. Dickey, Mark Buehrle and Brandon Morrow. However, after what HAPPened today, the picture is not so clear.
Happ’s first start of the spring came on February 26. He pitched 1 inning and gave up 4 hits, 1 walk and 2 earned runs, striking out 3. This isn’t a stellar start to the spring, but leaves room to grow. It can be chalked up to “It’s early” and can be shrugged off with a “Meh, stuff HAPPens”.
But, then today all HAPP broke loose. His pitching line is as follows: 0.1 innings pitched, 2 hits, 4 walks, 4 earned runs. Understanding that it is still “early” is harder to do with this performance. It would be very easy to brush it off if it were a session where he was working on some things, trying to fine tune his approach, etc. Fans can buy that…sort of. We often hear stories of players going into a spring training start with the goal of only working on one pitch, etc. If that is the case, it would appear that Happ needs to keep working.
Happ’s performance prompted many Jays fans to groan and grumble including the following tweet by Ian hunter @BlueJayHunter:
J.A. Happ will turn a lot of heads this year. And by that, I mean the Blue Jays outfielder’s heads … watching the ball fly over the fence.
— Ian Hunter (@BlueJayHunter) March 3, 2014
My reply to this tweet was simple. In order for Happ to give up that many home runs, he’d have to throw strikes. Today, with 4 BB in a third of an inning, Happ was not even close to grooving the ball. So, at least the home runs are not an issue…
The problem is that his spot in the rotation may not be as secure as we once thought it to be. When a team doesn’t have many options or competition for a rotation spot, a guy can feel comfortable. But, as we’ve been told this year, the Blue Jays have lots of competition for the 5th spot. With the HAPPlessness that took place on the mound today, perhaps there is another spot to compete for.
The competition, you ask? Well, in the same game, McGowan contributed 1.0 innings, 3 walks, 2 hits, 2 strikeouts and 3 earned runs. Drabek went 1.1 innings and gave up 2 walks, 3 hits and 4 earned runs.
Being that it truly IS early, J.A. will be given more opportunities and a longer leash to continue his Pursuit of HAPPiness.
*Special acknolwedgement to the Staff Writers at Jays Journal for their contributions to the J.A. Happ puns.