Toronto Blue Jays left-hander J.A. Happ is making progress on his minor league rehab assignment, and will take his next turn in the rotation as a member of the Buffalo Bisons, an official release from the team indicated on Monday. The 32-year-old Happ is scheduled to take the mound for Buffalo during their match-up against the Pawtucket Red Sox on Thursday April 10th.
This will be Happ’s second rehabilitation start of the spring, having taken the mound on April 5th for High-A Dunedin, Happ looked significantly better, throwing 5 innings of 2 run ball, allowing 3 hits while walking 1 and striking out 5 in the process. That was a marked improvement over his sprint performance which saw Happ throw 7 innings while allowing 16 runs on 21 hits and 9 walks.
While Happ is making the jump to Triple-A quickly, the Blue Jays are likely to take their time with him there. He’ll likely make at least one additional start in Buffalo before the Blue Jays determine what to do with him upon his return. At that time, they’ll have to determine whether Happ would represent an upgrade in the rotation or the bullpen.
Currently, that rotation consists of R.A. Dickey, Drew Hutchison, Mark Buehrle, Brandon Morrow, and Dustin McGowan. The results on all starters have been mixed thus far, but the small sample sizes may prompt the Blue Jays to try to extend their look at all five before making any further decisions. That holds especially true to McGowan, who made his first start since 2011 on Friday and was victimized by tipping his pitches to the New York Yankees.
Should the Blue Jays choose, they do hold options on J.A. Happ. However, that is a delicate procedure. As a veteran who is three years past his Major League debut, the Blue Jays would have to place Happ on optional waivers before they would be allowed to assign him to a minor league team. At this point, any team could claim him with the Blue Jays having the ability to revoke those waivers if they choose. That would seem unlikely, given Happ’s performance over the last two seasons and Toronto’s obligation of $5.2 million in 2014 with a $6.7 team option in 2015.
At this point in time, it is hard to think that Happ would represent an upgrade over any of the players currently in the rotation. The only real viable candidate for change would be McGowan, but it seems hard to believe that the Blue Jays would take the risk in moving him into the rotation for just two starts before giving up on the experiment and move him back to the bullpen.
J.A. Happ holds a lifetime record of 40-42 with a 4.25 ERA, a 4.0 BB/9, and a 7.6 K/9 ratio over 7 Major League seasons. He went 5-7 with a 4.56 ERA, a 4.4 BB/9, and a 7.5 K/9 over 92.2 innings in 2013.