Toronto Blue Jays left-hander J.A. Happ completed his injury rehabilitation assignment by throwing a pregame bullpen session Sunday in Coca-Cola Field and proclaimed himself ready to start for the Jays Wednesday in Seattle.
Wednesday’s start will come exactly three months after Happ was felled by a line drive to the head during a game at Tampa Bay. Happ suffered a fractured skull but his bigger issue was a sprained right knee he also suffered on the play.
“I feel good,” Happ said. “Obviously I’d like to have maybe finished the last 1-2 starts here a little sharper than I did, but I do feel good about getting pitch counts up and trying to get endurance back.
“The waiting game was the toughest thing. It’s just really exciting. From the first time a couple weeks ago,” at Class A Dunedin, “to get back on a mound was a great feeling. To get to continue to work my way through and get here and then get back to where I need to be, it’s going to be really exciting Wednesday.”
In seven starts for the Jays this year, Happ is 2-2 with a 4.91 ERA. He went 0-2, 6.75 in three starts for Buffalo with his numbers bloated by a six-run outing July 28 at Toledo. In his last start Friday at Columbus, Happ went 4 2/3 innings, struck out six and threw 95 pitches.
“He got his pitch count in and he’s still working on some mechanical things to keep his body from drifting,” said Bisons pitching coach Bob Stanley. “But he’s been there before, knows what he needs to do. And going up there will rejuvenate him even more. I always thought that it’s often harder to pitch on rehab in the minor leagues because these guys come up hacking.”
Happ is slated to fly to Seattle today and admitted it’s been difficult to watch the Blue Jays’ struggles this season.
“I’ve been following along and it’s been tough to watch,” he said. “Tough to not be there and try to help and be a part of it. Luckily, I’m finally going to get my chance.
Overshadowed by Mike Nickeas’ walk-off home run Saturday night was the work done by Buffalo starter Thad Weber, who went seven innings and got a no-decision. Weber is 5-4 with a 2.64 ERA in 14 games for Buffalo (11 starts). He’s second on the team with eight quality starts and has pitched into the seventh inning in six of his last eight outings.
Weber struck out seven, walked one and threw 70 of his 98 pitches for strikes.
“He’s a gamer and never wants to come out,” Stanley said. “He ran out of pitches but gave us seven solid innings. He might have ups and downs in one inning but always seems to come back and finds it.”
The first-place Rochester Red Wings were unable to pull off another big comeback Sunday and lost to Syracuse, 5-4, in a Frontier Field matinee. It ended roughly 16 hours after Saturday’s wild contest that saw Rochester ride the heroics of veteran catcher Jeff Clement to a 7-6, 12-inning victory.
Both teams scored five runs in the 10th inning, with Clement connecting on a two-out grand slam to re-tie the game at 6-6. Clement then won it with an RBI double in the 12th.
Nickeas’ blast was Buffalo’s first walk-off shot since Valentino Pascucci connected in the 11th inning against Toledo on Aug. 19, 2011. … A new exhibit featuring artifacts from “The Natural” has opened in the Hall of Fame Room in the main concourse by Section 107. This is the 30th anniversary of the filming of the Robert Redford baseball classic, much of which was done in War Memorial Stadium. … The series continues tonight at 7 (TWCS, Radio 1520 AM) as Buffalo’s Chien-Ming Wang (6-7) meets Pawtucket’s Allen Webster (5-4), who was acquired from the Dodgers last year.