PHILADELPHIA -- Packing a duffel bag for a second return to Lehigh Valley, J.A. Happ couldn't hide his feelings. He didn't try.
"I'm hugely disappointed," Happ said softly. "I was hoping this would be the time to stick. They want to get me down and keep me starting, I guess."
Happ is correct, and it's the reason he was optioned to Triple-A on Friday, rather than fellow lefty Les Walrond, who survived the addition of southpaw Scott Eyre to the 25-man big league roster. The Phillies have maintained that they see Happ as a starter, even after promoting him on July 29 to work from the bullpen.
The lefty fared well in his first big league stint to warrant such consideration, but manager Charlie Manuel struggled to find him sufficient work to keep him fresh. He'll return to the Ironpigs and start every fifth day, keeping him properly stretched out in case a starter goes down.
Though the team wouldn't commit to it, Happ should return on Sept. 1, when the rosters expand, and again serve out of the bullpen.
"I told him that he definitely has a future in our organization," Manuel said. "If he sees it from the aspect of what it really is, he's got to be encouraged. He's going to be fine. The biggest thing is to go let him pitch every five days and get sharp."
Though he had hoped to adjust to relieving in the short term, Happ gets the need to keep his long-term focus.
"I understand the move," he said. "I'm going to try and stay positive. The last time I went down, I pitched some good games. That's what I'm going to try and do, just try to stay on the radar."
Ken Mandel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.