Happ shows progress in latest rehab outing

J.A. Happ pitched five innings for Reading, allowing seven hits and three runs. He walked none and struck out four.
J.A. Happ pitched five innings for Reading, allowing seven hits and three runs. He walked none and struck out four.
Posted: June 24, 2010

READING – The red flags that had been raised during J.A. Happ's first three minor-league rehabilitation starts may have been lowered some Wednesday night.

Happ, on the disabled list with a strained left forearm since an April 16 start against Washington, turned in a respectable five innings that could help the Phillies lefthander in his bid for a green light back to the big leagues.

In his third consecutive start for double-A Reading, Happ allowed three runs on seven hits against Baltimore's Bowie affiliate. He struck out four and did not issue a walk.

Those numbers are not spectacular, but they represented a substantial improvement over his previous three rehab outings – one at single-A Clearwater and two at Reading – during which he allowed 10 earned runs on 14 hits in just 101/3 innings.

"That was the best I've felt," Happ said afterward. "I got my pitches in and I felt better with my body and where the ball was going. It definitely was a positive."

Happ gave the Phillies cause for concern with his ineffectiveness and a minor complaint about stiffness in his forearm during his previous outing at Reading. Now, he believes he is ready to return to the big leagues as soon as possible.

"Whenever they'll have me, I feel like I'll be ready to go," he said. "I don't know if they want me to do another [rehab start] or what the next move is."

Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said Tuesday that the team needed to see progress by Happ - and soon.

"I think he's going to have to get over that hump of letting the ball go," Amaro said. "This is really the first time he has had this kind of time off where he's had to come back and really cut it loose and get back to the old form. He's going to have to get to that point, otherwise he can't perform here.

"We want him to be 100 percent. If he's not 100 percent and not feeling that it's coming back the way it should, then we have to reevaluate the situation."

Happ, who was credited with the victory after his Reading teammates hit four home runs in an 8-3 win, agreed that he needed to show more than he had in his previous outings.

"You need to consistently get guys out," the pitcher said. "I can't just go up and expect a change."

Happ's only troublesome inning was the fourth. After allowing just two hits in three scoreless innings, he surrendered consecutive singles in the fourth. He fell behind Bowie's Robbie Widlansky, 2-1, in the count, and the first baseman launched a fastball for a three-run home run to right.

"It was a fastball, and I didn't throw it with enough conviction," Happ said. "It was a bad pitch."

Happ was in trouble again in the fifth when a double and a bloop single put runners at first and third with one out, but he escaped with an inning-ending double play. Happ's fastball was clocked between 87 and 89 m.p.h., and he threw 88 pitches, including 55 for strikes.

Contact staff writer Bob Brookover at 215-854-2577 or bbrookover@phillynews.com.

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