“Early in the afternoon, J.A. Happ walked out of the Phillies‘ dugout in his red shirt and blue shorts. He started running sprints on the right-field warning track until Rich Dubee came up and put his arm around Happ.
He had a feeling when he drove into the players’ parking lot on Darien Street earlier Thursday that it could be the last time he entered Citizens Bank Park as a Phillie.
Now he knew for sure.
Happ and Dubee disappeared into a tunnel in the right-field corner. The pitching coach led Happ to an office where Charlie Manuel and Ruben Amaro Jr. waited with the news: He had been traded to Houston for Roy Oswalt.
“This is all I’ve ever known,” Happ said later, fighting back tears during a news conference.
Happ, who won 12 games in 2009 and was the National League rookie of the year runner-up, made just three starts for the Phillies this season. He was placed on the disabled list April 16 with a strained left elbow and spent more than two months rehabbing the injury. When the Phillies didn’t see enough progress, they optioned him to triple A.
He was upset with the demotion, but eventually worked his way back to make one more start, last Sunday against Colorado.
“You look at the stuff that’s come this kid’s way and he’s kept handling it very professionally,” Dubee said.
Happ, 27, didn’t make the rotation out of spring training in 2009. Instead, Chan Ho Park was named the fifth starter. But Happ eventually earned his spot, only to see it taken away when he was moved to the bullpen in the playoffs. Then came the injury this year.
But Happ, who was taken by the Phillies in the third round of the 2004 draft, was upbeat about his time in Philadelphia. He ended up with two rings.
“It was a great time to be a part of the organization,” Happ said.
Happ was the centerpiece of the three-player package the Phillies sent to Houston. Shane Victorino, who was the first player to talk to Happ after he learned of the trade, told the pitcher he needs to look at it that way.
“You have to understand, you’re the No. 1 piece in this trade,” Victorino said he told Happ. “You’re going there for their No. 1 guy. So that says something about you as a player. You have to go down with the attitude, ‘They’re going to build around me.’ ”
Going through the clubhouse to say goodbye was difficult, Happ said. He came up in the minors with many of the Phillies. On his way out, he hugged Thursday’s starter, Kyle Kendrick.”