The Phillies will make room for newly acquired starter Cliff Lee today, which will likely mean a bullpen assignment for either Rodrigo Lopez or J.A. Happ. Happ may be the correct call.
Poor Happ can’t catch a break. Relegated to the ’pen when Chan Ho Park broke camp as the fifth starter, now, he could be pushed aside once again for a pitcher who, ironically, has a higher ERA and just as many wins. While Lopez has pitched in a bullpen before, Happ’s young arm showed very well in the late frames early in the season, going 2-0 with a 2.08 ERA, without so much as an inning of preparation. The dilemma, of course, is he has been just as good in the rotation. Check out this resume: Coming into last night’s game, among all National League pitchers, he was first in road ERA (1.97). Eight of his 12 starts have been quality starts, including a complete-game shutout. Opponents are batting just .222 against him, and he’s been especially good at locking down runners in scoring position (10-83 w/RISP).
So why move him? To me, it starts with his young arm, which will allow him to bounce back quicker than someone like Lopez. Jamie Moyer and Pedro Martinez are not options. He’s a better bet at this point to chew up innings, and has a better shot to miss a bat in a critical spot. Second, no one knows Happ better than the Phillies, and their protective handling suggests there will come a time – perhaps during this second-half turn against the National League – that opponents will finally solve the young lefty. Has there been a pitcher scouted more heavily than Happ these last couple of weeks?
It may be unfair, but there’s only one way to look at it: By moving Happ, a short-staffed ‘pen gets its best possible upgrade, while the starting surplus takes a minimal hit.
Notes: Yesterday set the Beerleaguer record for daily visits, shattering the 24-hour period around the World Series clincher by a full 17 percent. In other news, right-hander Scott Mathieson has been promoted to Double-A Reading.