Happ makes latest bid for rotation slot
Lefty rebounds from rough first, retires 13 of 14 in one stretch
DUNEDIN, Fla. -- J.A. Happ has put himself in excellent position to win the fifth spot in the Phillies' rotation.
But he hasn't won anything yet.
Happ allowed six hits, five runs and two walks and struck out four in 5 1/3 innings Saturday morning in a Minor League Spring Training game against the Blue Jays at Englebert Complex. He allowed three runs in the first inning, but adjusted to retire 13 of 14 batters at one point. He allowed two more runs in the sixth, but those runs scored after he left the game and a two-out hit dropped in left field with help from the wind.
"That's what this game is about -- making adjustments," Happ said. "I think I was able to, and hopefully that's what they saw."
Happ, who is competing with right-hander Chan Ho Park for the No. 5 job, is scheduled for one more start before the season begins.
Happ is 0-0 with a 3.15 ERA in 20 Grapefruit League innings.
Park is 1-0 with a 2.87 ERA in 15 2/3 innings.
"I feel like I put myself in a good position," Happ said. "I hope. Obviously, knowing that I was going to have to come out of the chute ready to go rather than kind of build up ... I think I came out early and threw the ball well and continued to try to make some adjustments and continued to work on my offspeed stuff. I think it's come around. It's nice to get some ground balls."
The Phillies said they have not decided between Happ and Park, although there are reasons why Happ could be considered a favorite. First, Park went 4-4 with a 3.40 ERA in 54 appearances last season with the Dodgers. The Phils signed him to a one-year, $2.5 million contract because they liked him as a multiple-innings reliever, which they could use. Second, Park hasn't pitched regularly in the big leagues since 2006 and has not been successful as a starter since '01. Third, Happ has little experience pitching out of the bullpen and might be better served remaining a starter.
Happ isn't thinking about the alternatives: a move to the bullpen or possibly pitching for Triple-A Lehigh Valley.
"I'd like to be in the big leagues," he said. "I'd like to get that ring on [April 8] with everybody else."
Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.