OAKLAND -- Since arriving from Houston in a 10-player trade on July 20, left-hander J.A. Happ found himself in the bullpen, which is an unfamiliar role for a pitcher who's been a starter his whole career.
Blue Jays manager John Farrell had said that the team was discussing ways to get Happ into the starting unit, whether by going to a six-man rotation or simply by replacing one of the current starters should he falter.
After Friday's game, the move was made. The team demoted left-hander Brett Cecil after his start against the A's in order to make room for Happ, who will make his rotation debut on Thursday in Tampa Bay.
"He's an established Major League starter," Farrell said. "We acquired him to do that. He remained patient while we had to go through and sort some things out. And his opportunity's here now."
One potential issue is the condition of Happ's arm. He hasn't started a game since July 16. And with right-hander Brandon Morrow expected to be on limited pitch counts when he returns from a strained left oblique in two or three weeks, the Jays wouldn't want to be in the position of having two of their starters unable to last long due to arms that aren't properly conditioned.
But Farrell expressed confidence that Happ will be able to build his arm back up rapidly as he returns to starting, perhaps mitigating that concern.
Happ wasn't great in his relief role, allowing four runs and walking five batters in seven innings over four appearances. But Farrell said he was taking those numbers with a grain of salt.
"The evaluation of him in a reliever role, good or bad, is tempered with that this isn't the role that he's accustomed to," Farrell said. "He's a guy that's going to come in and establish his fastball as a starter and establish the rhythm of the game. In a relief role, we've seen he hasn't necessarily given in, and has continued to try to make pitches.
"I think ultimately, personally, I would reserve judgment until seeing him in a starting role."