To say the Blue Jays have been hit heavy by the injury bug this year would be putting it mildly. Pieces of the puzzle that were added made the playoffs look like a can’t miss proposition. Those expectation have fallen short of being realized with several key pieces having seen significant time on the DL. To put it mildly, season expectations, save for an 11 game winning streak have not been realized.
Of all of the injuries that have occurred, none was scarier than the one to JA Happ. In a May 7th matchup against Tampa Bay, Desmond Jennings sent a screaming liner back up the middle that hit Happ in the head, crumbling him on the mound. It’s a miracle that we are in a position of talking about a comeback and not something far more serious.
Happ is currently on the mound in Buffalo and fortunately, or unfortunately for Happ, the head injury is the least of Happ’s concerns.
“No not at all from the blow to the head, it’s been more his knee”, stated Buffalo manager Marty Brown on any lingering effects of Happ’s injury. “When he collapsed, his knee went out from under him, so it’s been more his mobility and covering first base. He’s been tested a couple of times here and everything looks to be okay. His arm looked pretty good the other day and he threw strikes. He looked like the same guy.”
In the overall scheme of things, the knee is something that will heal, mobility will come back as the knee strengthens, and talking with Happ, it is amazing the entire situation was not much more serious. While echoing the sentiments of Brown in regards to the lingering effects to the head, one realizes how scary the situation really was.
“As far as the head, no”, states Happ when asked about any lingering effects of the injury. “That was kind of going to heal on its own and I think that it has had time to do that. After a couple of weeks, the liquid that was behind the ear was taken care of and everything seems to be back to normal”.
When the Happ situation occurred, comparisons to Brandon McCarthy were sure to come up. Images of a line shop hitting Detroit’s Doug Fister in the head during the World Series were also replayed. The entire situation is something that has led to more discussion on how to protect pitchers on the mound, particularly in regards to head gear. As hitters have gotten bigger and stronger, bat speed has increased and the exit velocity of the ball off the bat has skyrocketed. With pitchers in a vulnerable position upon release, it would seem something needs to be done. It’s something Happ is in favor of, but doesn’t have any feedback on anything specifically.
“Yeah, I think they’re looking at it and they should definitely look at it”, stated Happ. “I don’t really have any specific thoughts because I haven’t seen any prototypes or anything like that. It’s a hard question because unless pitchers are wearing helmets, it wouldn’t have done me any good in my particular case because the ball hit me in the ear. I don’t know, hopefully there is a better choice out there and hopefully that is coming”.
With the lineup seemingly starting to get healthy and Happ and Santos nearing return and completing rehab assignments in Buffalo, fans of the Jays may finally get a glimpse of the lineup that was constructed to make a World Series run this offseason.
“We had that stretch there where it looked like we were turning things around and were playing great, but we haven’t been able to duplicate that since”, states Happ. “It’s frustrating. Injuries, I would say are a part of the game, but we have certainly had our share. You have to find a way to rise above that. It’s just been tough this year for whatever reason”.
While no timeline has been set for Happ’s return, it would seem that he would be in a position to return to Toronto relatively soon. Happ is currently scheduled to make his next rehab start on Sunday against the Toledo Mud Hens and depending on the outcome of that start, he could be nearing return relatively soon.
“They haven’t said anything to me specifically”, said Happ about his return. “I’m hoping it’s obviously soon. They’re waiting to hear reports on how this goes and I’m waiting to hear what they think about it. We will play that game until I get back up there”.
“I’m definitely looking forward to getting this start in and getting that pitch count up. If it all goes well, I feel like I am really close and we will see where we go from there. It has definitely been a long process and I’m excited to hopefully be at the end of it”.