Facing big leaguers again beneficial for Happ

Blue Jays lefty allows three runs over six innings vs. Yankees

Facing big leaguers again beneficial for Happ

DUNEDIN, Fla. -- J.A. Happ went more than two weeks between appearances in big league Spring Training games, but he appeared to make up for lost time with an impressive outing against the Yankees during the Blue Jays' 4-3 loss on Saturday afternoon.

Happ managed to get through six innings and toss 86 pitches, which is key this late in camp. It has been difficult to evaluate Happ's spring because his last two appearances came in the Minor Leagues. The first was scheduled, while the second was added to the list when Toronto had a rainout earlier this week.

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Minor League games provide a perfect opportunity to work on a few specific things, but it's more difficult for the pitcher to get valuable feedback. In those situations, Happ wasn't quite sure what to read into the results, but a strong outing against the Yankees helped rectify some of that.

"I don't want to take anything away, it's just a little harder to judge how your stuff plays," Happ said of the Minor League games. "Consistency is why guys are at the big league level and guys are at the Minor League level, judgment of the strike zone and things like that. I feel good about throwing strikes down there, but at the same time it's a little bit harder to get a read on how your stuff is going to play."

Happ allowed a leadoff home run to Aaron Hicks in the first inning, but after that he cruised into the sixth. Up until that point, the veteran lefty had been limited to 53 pitches, but New York made him work before the afternoon was over.

Cesar Puello led off with a double to right field, and Alex Rodriguez stepped to the plate later in the inning with a pair of runners on. Happ got ahead 1-2, but he eventually let the count run full before Rodriguez lifted a soft liner to center on the 10th pitch of the at-bat.

A-Rod's RBI single

Another run scored later in the frame, and before it was all said and done, Happ had to throw 33 pitches to finish his day at 86. The development might have been a slight disappointment during the season, but it's actually a positive sign in the spring. It provided Happ with a perfect time to make a couple of adjustments on the mound and go toe to toe with Rodriguez, which will happen again at some point in the not-so-distant future.

"That was kind of an example of some of the offspeed stuff getting a little too big," Happ said of the Rodriguez at-bat. "But I was making some good pitches and he was fouling some pretty good pitches off. That was a battle."

Gregor Chisholm is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB and Facebook, and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.