Phillies Notes: Where does Happ go from here?

Phillies starter J.A. Happ went five innings, allowing three runs, and showed he's healthy. What happens next is unknown.
Phillies starter J.A. Happ went five innings, allowing three runs, and showed he's healthy. What happens next is unknown.
Posted: July 26, 2010

When the Phillies sent J.A. Happ to triple A earlier this month despite his insistence that he had fully recovered from the left-elbow strain that put him on the disabled list in April, he had to start over again.

The lefthander had to show the organization he was still a major-league pitcher.

Sunday, he was back.

"I definitely pitched a little bit angry today," Happ said after throwing five innings in the Phillies' 4-3 win over Colorado. "But that's not a bad thing. I feel like this is where I belong. You have to go out there and prove that. Today was a good step toward that."

Happ allowed three runs. He walked four Rockies batters and allowed four hits. He struggled at times with his control, but showed the Phillies he is indeed healthy.

"I felt strong," Happ said.

Now, the question that will be answered in the next week is: Where does Happ fit in the Phillies' future plans?

The National League rookie-of-the-year runner-up a season ago is scheduled to make his next start for the Phillies on Friday, a day before the trade deadline. Happ might be included in a trade the team could make for a starting pitcher, such as Houston's Roy Oswalt. The Astros scouted Happ while he was in the minors.

Happ declined to answer any questions about trade rumors Sunday.

At least the Phillies (and any other prospective team) can take away the fact that Happ appeared healthy. In his final start before going on the DL April 15, Happ was throwing his fastball at an average of 88.07 m.p.h. On Sunday, it was 90.21. His slider and curveball also had similar bumps in velocity.

"He looked healthy," Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said. "His fastball looked sneaky."

Happ cruised through the first inning, throwing just 16 pitches and relying heavily on his fastball. He struck out two, including Carlos Gonzalez looking to end the inning.

It was a return Happ had thought would come much sooner.

The 27-year-old went 101 days between starts for the Phillies with a trip to the disabled list for a strained left elbow and then a demotion to the minors in between. He had not spoken to reporters since his July 6 option to triple-A Lehigh Valley. Was returning to the mound at Citizens Bank Park constantly on his mind?

"I'd say that's accurate," Happ said with a smile.

As his first two starts in April had gone, Happ tired early and could not complete six innings. His control was sharp in the first inning but faltered later; he walked four batters in his final four innings.

In the fourth, Happ walked Melvin Mora on four pitches. Ryan Spilborghs followed with a nine-pitch at-bat (all fastballs from Happ) and hit the ninth pitch deep into the left-field stands for a two-run home run.

"I can pitch better than that, but at the same time I think it went pretty well today," Happ said. "Take away a few walks and I'm right where I need to be."

Francisco plays, homers

Manuel said again that he has not instituted a platoon system in left field. But Ben Francisco - not Raul Ibanez - has started nine of the last 10 games in which the Phillies faced a lefthanded starter.

Coincidence?

"He's swinging the bat quicker," Manuel said of Francisco. "When he gets some at-bats, he looks better."

Francisco hit a two-run home run in the second inning, his third of the season. His OPS against lefties is more than 100 points higher than Ibanez's.

Extra bases

Lefthander Jamie Moyer remains undecided about how he will rehabilitate the two injuries to his left elbow he suffered last week. Moyer is scheduled to undergo more tests this week and likely will seek a second opinion before a decision is made. . . . As expected, Kyle Kendrick was officially listed as the Phillies' starter for Thursday's game against Arizona. Kendrick allowed one run in seven innings Saturday in his return to the majors after a four-day hiatus in triple A.


Contact staff writer Matt Gelb

at 215-854-2928

or mgelb@phillynews.com. Follow on Twitter

at www.twitter.com/magelb.

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