Frustrated by the prospects of starting the season at Triple-A Buffalo, left-hander J.A. Happ intends to initiate a conversation about his future with the Blue Jays if he’s not approached first by the front office in the coming days.
“I’m not trying to cause a big deal – it is, what it is,” Happ said, after allowing four doubles and two runs in four innings to the split-squad Baltimore Orioles, in a 3-1 defeat Saturday afternoon.
“This stuff will be handled in private. We’re kind of getting down to it [the regular season approaching] so ...”
Happ was pitching at Florida Auto Exchange Stadium as knuckleballer R. A. Dickey and catcher J.P. Arencibia returned to camp after playing for the U.S. during the World Baseball Classic. Puerto Rico eliminated the Americans on Friday night.
The Blue Jays obtained Happ from the Astros last July and coming out of last season, Happ would have looked forward to 2013 with the expectation of having a spot in the rotation. In the offseason though, general manager Alex Anthopolous obtained Josh Johnson and Mark Buehrle from the Marlins, and Dickey, the National League Cy Young Award winner, from the Mets.
With Brandon Morrow and Ricky Romero established as incumbents, the moves left Happ as odd-man out in a five-man rotation.
Happ has complied a 35-35 record with Philadelphia, Houston and Toronto over six seasons but no matter how well he performs this spring, nor whether Romero continues to struggle, Romero has been guaranteed his spot in the rotation when the season begins.
“[Happ] knows what the situation is,” John Gibbons, the Toronto manager, said before Saturday’s Grapefruit League game. “I don’t expect him to be happy about it.”
Anthopolous could deal Happ but by placing him in Buffalo, the Blue Jays would have proven insurance if Romero falters or if there is an injury to one of the other starters. An option is to use him in the bullpen but the advantage of Buffalo would be to keep his arm stretched out by logging a starter’s innings.
Meantime, Dickey and Arencibia settled back into the clubhouse.
“You try to take as much as you can away [from the experience],” Arencibia said. “You see their professionalism. Some of these guys have been doing this for a long time, and they are superstars for a reason. You see the way they go about their work, and you just try to pick their brains.”
Arencibia said Dickey’s knuckleball moved very well in his second outing, on Thursday.
“The good one is there,” Dickey said. “Now it’s a matter of being able mechanically being able to repeat it. That’s the next step, now that I’ve got my arm strength.”
Arencibia said supporters of the American opponents were louder than the home side’s, even though games were played in Phoenix and Miami. Dickey said he’s played in only one stadium louder, Minnesota’s Metrodome as the Twins were about to make the playoffs.
“We wanted to represent our country a little bit better than we did, and we weren’t able to do that, so it hurts,” Dickey said. “Some [journalists] write about it as an exhibition, but it really means a lot to a lot of people.”
Gibbons has already named Dickey as the Opening Day starter. To get on an every-fifth-day rotation leading to April 2, he would have to pitch on Monday. However, the Jays are off that day. It’s expected Gibbons will announce on Sunday the plans for the final two weeks of spring.
Closer Sergio Santos pitched in a Grapefruit League game for the first time since March 3, throwing nine pitches in a hitless inning. Santos is coming off midseason shoulder surgery, and the most critical test is not performance, rather how his shoulder feels the following day. His fastball reached 94 mph on Saturday, his slider 87 mph.