This was the place he wanted to be. It was what all the work over the last two months has been for – to be back on the mound facing hitters, taking center stage in a baseball game.
J.A. Happ looked good in his first start with the Buffalo Bisons as he joined the club on his Major League rehabilitation assignment.
He threw four innings, gave up one run on three hits. He walked two, struck out three and threw 38 of his 60 pitches for strikes.
He could have gone longer against the Columbus Clippers had a rain storm not blown over Coca-Cola Field Tuesday night, causing a one hour and 19 minute delay.
But Happ felt good about his outing, which he finished by throwing inside to reach his full 75-pitch count, as the Bisons came back after the delay to earn a 4-1 win in front of 5,803.
“I felt strong out there,” Happ said about his start. “I could have kept going except with the rain delay. I was able to go in and get a few more pitches inside and make sure I got to that 75 number and I still felt strong there. I’m definitely happy about that.
“For the most part I was able to throw strikes, too. I felt like I wasn’t overcompensating for anything. That’s something we’re definitely paying attention to.”
The left-handed pitcher at one point looked like he would be the Opening Day starter for the Buffalo Bisons, but instead started the season with the Toronto Blue Jays as the fifth man in the rotation.
Then came the game on May 7 against Tampa Bay in Florida where he took a line drive to the head. While he sustained a laceration and a broken bone behind his ear, the most severe of his injury came to his right knee, involving his posterior cruciate ligament.
“To be able to repeat and land on the leg 75 times is another thing I’m looking for,” Happ said. “I don’t know if it’s something that’s going to be 100 percent when I’m back. That’s something that may never be. That’s something with the PCL, it never really goes back fully. It felt good and every time’s getting better and that’s the good thing.”
This was the third rehab start for Happ, who started July 13 with the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League Blue Jays and July 18 with Single-A Dunedin.
“I liked what I saw,” Bisons manager Marty Brown said. “I thought the ball was coming out of his hand good. He kept the ball down for the most part. He gave up the double. He just kind of centered one of those pitches. Probably if he had more history with the hitter he probably would have used something a little bit different. … He just stayed ahead of the hitters for the most part and used his two-seamer well.”
Happ doesn’t allow himself to think too much about the injury, instead just enjoying the chance to pitch again. He will report to Toronto how he feels after each outing, but said of his return to the Blue Jays, “I don’t feel like it’s too far away.”
Columbus picked up a run in the second when Jeremy Hermida led off with a double and a pair of ground ball outs moved him around the diamond.
The Bisons took the lead in the sixth. Moises Sierra stole second and came around to score on two bad throws. Mauro Gomez then walked and scored on Clint Robinson’s double. Gomez added a two-run home run in the eighth.
The series continues tonight (7:05 p.m., TWCS, Radio 1520 AM) with Thad Weber (3-4, 2.65) scheduled to start against former Boston pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka (2-5, 4.26).