Phillies Notes: Happ still a question mark

Posted: June 16, 2010

NEW YORK - The disclaimers about Phillies lefthander J.A. Happ begin with this: His strained left forearm is mostly pain-free. Beyond that, well, there is a lot of uncertainty.

Happ was at Yankee Stadium on Tuesday to throw a 40-pitch bullpen session in front of pitching coach Rich Dubee. He will make his third rehab start Friday, likely at double-A Reading, where he could not get out of the third inning Sunday.

"I didn't throw that well, but I felt pretty good," Happ said. "I wasn't concerned about my elbow when I was out there, and that was good."

Happ said his fastball topped out from 86 to 89 m.p.h. in his last start. He said the injury is not affecting his ability to throw, but he needs time to build up arm strength.

"I think we have some concern because he has been out a while," Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said, "but he hasn't shown any signs of any setbacks, especially the last couple weeks, so that's a good sign."

Amaro said Happ is "basically starting from scratch" and likened his arm progression to that of spring training. The lefthander has not pitched for the Phillies since April 15.

So after Friday, how many more outings would Happ need before being ready?

"We're still discussing that," Amaro said.

Amaro said as long as Happ isn't in pain, he's happy. But if Happ continues to struggle and not display his normal repertoire of pitches, the Phillies may not be able to count on him for some time.

"After his first setback I'm not surprised," Amaro said. "He started feeling discomfort after we started moving him forward, so I'm not surprised it has taken this long. Now he's in a mode where he's building up his arm strength."

Utley moves up

Charlie Manuel insisted that the only reason he split up Chase Utley and Ryan Howard in the batting order Tuesday was because of who they were facing, Yankees lefthander CC Sabathia.

Manuel batted Utley second, marking the first time he had not hit third all season. Both of the lefthanded batters in the middle of the Phillies' lineup have struggled mightily. But Manuel said this was the first time he thought about splitting them up.

And even if Utley had been his normal self, Manuel maintained he would have considered making the same move.

"I might have," he said.

Utley hit second 18 times in 2009 and did well. He hit .309 with 3 home runs and 13 RBIs in 68 at-bats. The last time he hit anywhere other than third was July 30, 2009.

Manuel said he has watched a lot of video of Utley's recent at-bats. He said it appears that Utley is right on most of the fastballs he sees, but the results have not come.

"Every now and then, he gets out on his front side and he looks like he's not ready," Manuel said. "When you see him chase breaking balls, his weight has already shifted to his front side and he becomes just an arm-and-hand hitter. That's a sign that he's not staying back."

Utley has fared much better against lefties (.295 average, 1.114 OPS) than righties (.240 average, .723 OPS).

Pitching change

Lefthander Jamie Moyer will start Wednesday's game instead of Thursday, Dubee said. Kyle Kendrick will be pushed back another day to Thursday.

Dubee said he wanted to give Kendrick another day of rest after the Phillies needed him out of the bullpen Friday in Boston. Dubee also liked the idea of the soft-tossing Moyer following Roy Halladay in the rotation.

Extra bases

Utley and Placido Polanco remain in the lead at their respective positions for all-star voting in the National League. Shane Victorino and Jayson Werth are fourth and fifth in outfield spots. Voting ends July 1. . . . Alex Rodriguez (hip tendinitis) did not start at third base for the Yankees. Manager Joe Girardi said he expects Rodriguez to play Wednesday.


Contact staff writer Matt Gelb

at 215-854-2928 or mgelb@phillynews.com.

comments powered by Disqus
|
|
|
|
|