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Jays' Happ ready for return, but in what role?

Published On: Apr 11 2014 09:54:31 AM CDT
baseballs in a net

Steve Nesius / Reuters

TORONTO -

The Toronto Blue Jays will have a decision to make soon in their starting rotation.

Left-hander J.A. Happ, who was put on the disabled list with lower back tightness, appears to be ready for a return to the majors.

But will he return to the rotation or be put in the bullpen?

Happ pitched 4 2/3 innings for Triple-A Buffalo on Thursday, allowing one run on four hits in his second minor league rehabilitation start.

"The whole goal is to get up to the amount of pitches I need and feel healthy doing it," said Happ, who struck out six and walked two as 63 of his 90 pitches were strikes. "Tonight, that's where I was at. I'm ready to take it to the next step and try to get big-league hitters out. It's good to get some confidence back and know that I'm physically able to handle the workload."

Happ struck out five batters in five innings with Class A Dunedin on Saturday against Clearwater. He also allowed two runs on three hits in that outing, his first rehab assignment.

Right-hander Dustin McGowan took Happ's spot in the rotation after he tried to gu through the injury in spring training.

"It was frustrating to not get results and not feel good and battle through that," Happ said. "It's good to get some confidence back and know that I'm physically able to handle the workload. It's now two starts where the pitch count's kind of full, so I feel good about it now."

"He was pretty good, much better than I saw in spring training," Bisons manager Gary Allenson said. "One of the raps on him is he throws too many pitches per inning. He got ahead for the most part, and he got a few guys to chase the high fastball with two strikes. I'd like to see him bounce a breaking ball now and then. You might get guys to chase something in the dirt."

Where he will have is next outing remains to be seen. But Happ sees himself as a starter.

"I haven't prepared to be in the bullpen," he said. "I've prepared to be a starter all offseason. The plan was to get right and get healthy. Hopefully things take care of themselves."

Where and in what role Happ pitches next could depend on how McGowan does Friday in his second start of the season in Baltimore.