J.A. Happ is frustrated it’s taken him so long to return.
The Toronto Blue Jays left-hander should just feel fortunate if he’s able to Wednesday.
Happ is scheduled to make his first start since getting struck on the head by a line drive three months ago as the Blue Jays try to close out a lengthy West Coast trip with their first three-game road sweep of the Seattle Mariners in 22 years.
In his first full season with the Blue Jays, Happ (2-2, 4.91 ERA) hasn’t pitched in the majors since May 7, when he was taken out of Tropicana Field on a stretcher after a Desmond Jennings line drive hit him behind the left ear. Happ suffered a skull fracture and a sprained right knee on the play. Setbacks in his knee rehab caused the lengthy delay in his return before being activated Monday.
“I’m still frustrated and I still wanted to obviously be back sooner. I am happy about the way I feel now and I am happy to finally be here after all that because it wasn’t necessarily, rehab’s never fun, this kind of stuff wasn’t fun,” said Happ, who went 0-2 with a 6.75 ERA in three rehab starts at Triple-A Buffalo. “Like I said before, makes it worth all that, worth it now being back here and to get out there tomorrow.”
After Toronto took advantage of the Mariners’ season-worst four errors in Tuesday’s 7-2 victory, Happ’s focus is now on helping the club cap its first three-game sweep at Seattle since July 5-7, 1991 - not getting hit again.
“Not (nervous) about being hit again or anything like that,” he said Tuesday. “Obviously testing the knee a little bit, but it kept responding and it’s been getting better and better.”
The Mariners (52-61), who have dropped five of seven at home, are hoping for a better performance from Aaron Harang (5-10, 5.27). The veteran right-hander was tagged for a season high-tying seven runs in his last outing, Friday’s 11-8 loss at Baltimore.
“I couldn’t get loose,” Harang said after his five innings of work. “My upper back is tight and it’s hard to get extension, hard to feel like you have control out there. I was pulling a lot of balls.”
Harang needs to get off to a better start after walking two and putting the Mariners into a 4-0 first-inning hole against the Orioles.
However, that could be tough the way Jose Reyes is swinging the bat. The former NL batting champ has three straight multihit games after hitting Felix Hernandez’s first pitch Tuesday out of the park for his 18th career leadoff homer - and first this season.
“‘I had that approach before the game I was looking for a fastball right in the middle the first pitch and I try to put my best swing and that’s what happened,” said Reyes, 2 for 15 lifetime off Harang.
Brett Lawrie could be another tough out. The third baseman, 5 for 8 in this series, has lifted his batting average from .204 to .238 while hitting safely in each game on this trip.
The Blue Jays are 5-4 during that stretch and enjoying their first three-game winning streak since a franchise record-tying 11-game run from June 11-23. They are trying for their fourth straight win over Seattle after dropping seven of the previous eight.