With Jordan Montgomery and Masahiro Tanaka starting Tuesday and Wednesday, respectively, against the Braves at Yankee Stadium and Gerrit Cole likely to face the Red Sox on Friday night, J.A. Happ’s next turn is in flux.
Happ, 37, isn’t hurt, but with Monday and Thursday this week being dark the Yankees are skipping the struggling left-hander.
Because Happ and the Yankees are in discussions about the pitcher’s vesting option for 2020, it could be speculated he is being skipped to limit his innings.
A recent deal between the union and MLB stated players with vesting options would receive the contractual option total in full, but the thresholds that trigger the option would be prorated based on games played this year.
Happ has a $17 million option for 2021 that in a standard 162-game season would have vested if he reached 26 starts or 165 innings. Prorated for a 60-game season, Happ would have to reach 10 starts or 61 ¹/₃ innings to trigger the $17 million option. In two starts this year, Happ has worked a total of seven innings.
However, Happ being skipped is likely due to him not pitching well.
Happ is 0-1 with a 10.39 ERA and has allowed seven hits and eight walks in those seven innings. In his last outing on Wednesday in Philadelphia, Happ gave up four runs in three innings and walked six. That is one shy of his career high which happened in 2011. The last time Happ walked six in a game was in 2018.
“I’ve got to make them put the ball in play,’’ Happ said. “I’ve got to force the issue better than I did today.”
He called the walks “uncharacteristic” and admitted frustration with home plate umpire Angel Hernandez: “I did hit some [spots in the strike zone] and didn’t get [calls]. That’s just a fact, but that happens. I’ve got to move on.”
With Giancarlo Stanton on the IL, Aaron Boone used the word “creative’’ Sunday talking about what he will do without his DH.
With Clint Frazier joining the Yankees for Tuesday night’s game, he will likely get a crack at the DH spot. However, Boone is very high on left-handed hitting Mike Ford, so he could take over for Stanton and not just against right-handers. In 21 games versus lefties last season, Ford hit .333 (11-for-33) with seven homers, 11 RBIs and a 1.389 OPS. In 49 games against righties, Ford batted .236 (26-for-110) with five homers, 14 RBIs and a 7.66 OPS. Ford could also play first base, which would give Boone the option to use the right-handed hitting Luke Voit as the DH.
Boone could also mix in regular players such as Aaron Judge, Aaron Hicks and Gary Sanchez in the DH spot.
A bullpen that has Zack Britton, Adam Ottavino and Chad Green is certainly strong, but the Yankees pen could be adding Aroldis Chapman. The left-handed closer is expected to face batters Tuesday at the alternate site in Scranton. That would move Chapman a step closer to rejoining the Yankees after his stint on the COVID-19 IL. Chapman hasn’t pitched in a big-league game this year.
When Chapman returns, he will close and Britton will work in front of him. Britton is 5-for-5 in save chances, but was shaky in the ninth inning of a 4-3 loss to the Rays on Sunday. He gave up a run, two hits, walked one and bounced a wild pitch.
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