New York Yankees: Which J.A. Happ will show up for the 2020 season?

New York Yankees, J.A. Happ

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Back weeks ago, General Manager Brian Cashman made it clear that J.A. Happ would be the fifth starter in the New York Yankees pitching rotation.  Then came the Paxton surgery, and it appears he will now be the fourth starter, with Jordan Montgomery likely taking his fifth spot.  To say that Happ has had a checkered pitching career is an understatement that does not explain his 121-90 record.  For the Yankees, they traded for him at the back end of the 2018 season, and he delighted Yankee fans and the front office with a 7-0 record in eleven games.

2019 season disappointing:

His 2019 season, although not horrible, was a far cry from what the Yankees expected of him.  He was 12-8 with an elevated ERA of 4.91.  With that ERA, he was lucky to win twelve games.  If you give up 5 runs an outing; you can’t expect to have a good season.  Getting back to his checkered record, he has had a 20-4 season with the Jays in 2016 but has also had losing seasons in his career.  Happ lived through the postseason with all types of rumors of the Yankees trying to get his $17MM salary off the payroll.  He is no doubt pleased to still be here and have a chance to show the Yankees that he can be better than last year.  Happ’s contract runs through this season and a 2021 Option Vests with 165 IP or 27 Games Started in during this season.

Happ and Gerrit Cole reunite:

Happ pitched to a .778 winning percentage in 2015 when he was teammates with new Yankee Gerrit Cole.  He messaged Cole when he learned Cole would be a Yankee: “I sent him a message right away saying, ‘I hope we’ll be teammates again,’” Happ said with a laugh. “Obviously, congratulations to him. I think obviously, we’re excited to have him. Anybody would be excited to have a guy like that on your staff. But you know, we’re here now. Hopefully, we’ll move forward from that talk.”  It could be that Cole may be a help to Happ with any issues he may have.

No excuses:

Happ talked about the “juiced” ball used last year may have hurt him, he gave up a career-high 34 home runs in 161.1 innings pitched during the season, but was not using that as an excuse as other pitchers dealt with that as well.  He did talk about his shoulder/biceps issue that bothered him in 2019, he said that is no longer an issue going into the new season.

Happ figures it out:

Happ lives in Clearwater, Florida, and has been throwing at the spring training complex in nearby Tampa throughout the postseason.  At the complex, he came to use the high-speed cameras and video to look at his delivery over the years to help his progress.  “Just the way I was using my body, I think. I was struggling for a large part to kind of put it together,” Happ said. “ And I was struggling to understand why. And I think we just got to a point where it started clicking a little bit better. I was able to use my legs a little bit better, my hips a little bit better.”

Happ thinks his postseason work and analytics will help him have a better 2019 season, and he can get back to the player he has been most of his career.  When asked today how he felt to still be a Yankee, he responded: “Yeah, it’s exciting to be back, and this is the place I’d like to be for sure,” Happ said before Friday’s work out at George M. Steinbrenner Field.

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