Jul 022010

July 2 Philadelphia Daily News

“At one point during his bullpen session yesterday afternoon, J.A. Happ walked heel-to-toe down the slope of the mound, starting on the pitching rubber and stopping after he had measured the ideal landing point for his right foot at the end of his delivery’s stride. The mark noted, he resumed a workout that he hopes will result in his return to the active roster at some point next week.

On Sunday, Happ will once again travel to Triple A Lehigh Valley, where he will attempt to convince the Phillies that he is ready to retire major league hitters on a consistent basis. Thus far, he has not succeeded in that mission, despite making five prior rehab starts and declaring himself fully recovered from the elbow strain that has sidelined him since April 16.

“I’m ready when they are,” Happ said yesterday.

The Phillies are still not satisfied with the sharpness of Happ’s pitches. The key to his success last season, when he went 10-4 with a 2.99 ERA in 23 starts, was his ability to locate a fastball that seemed to explode out of his hands despite velocity readings that averaged 89-91 mph. The Phillies want to see that explosiveness, and the ability to consistently locate it before they use Happ to replace somebody, presumably righthander Kyle Kendrick, in the rotation.

Happ said he felt like his arm strength was back prior to his start in Lehigh Valley on Monday, when he threw 100 pitches in four inning and allowed 10 of the 22 batters he faced to reach base.

“I guess velocity-wise it wasn’t as good as the time before that, but I don’t know,” he said. “I’m kind of trying to figure out how to get it back as quick as possible right now.”

Happ’s 30-day allotment for a rehab appearance ends on July 7. For it to continue, the Phillies would have to file for an extension. That could prove difficult, since both Happ and head athletic trainer Scott Sheridan said yesterday that the lefthander feels healthy.

Because Happ has options remaining, the Phillies could choose to activate him and send him down to the minor leagues to continue refining his stuff.

“He’s been feeling good,” Sheridan said. “He’s not reporting any problems to us, but again, it’s a matter of him feeling comfortable on the mound with his pitchability as opposed to other things.””

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