PHILADELPHIA -- J.A. Happ would've officially received his award for being the organization's top Minor League pitching prospect on Monday, but the lefty had more important things to do. Higher on his priority list was hurling the Phillies into the postseason, and his strong effort helped the team pull closer to playoff reality. With that accomplished, Happ and catcher Lou Marson received the 2008 Paul Owens Award, presented to the organization's top pitcher and catcher in the Minor Leagues.More
Happ can place it next to the game ball and scorecard from his first big league win, on Sept. 17, and said ball will be more prominently featured. "Obviously, [the award] is a great honor, and I'm proud," Happ said. "But to [play] is why we do it and why you keep pushing, to get the chance to get a win." Happ feels this season has been good for him because he has returned to prospect status in his mind. The 2007 season was filled with injury and inconsistency, and Happ felt as if he lost a rung on the team's depth chart. When he was one of the early cuts in spring -- a bad sign for a kid trying to re-establish himself -- Happ could go in one of two directions: pout or pitch his way on to the radar. "It's just one of those things where you're not sure where you stand," Happ said. "You're constantly trying to prove yourself, [when you struggle], you think you lose your standing with the organization. I just went in and tried to turn it around. When I was one of the first cuts in Spring Training, I knew that was a turning point. I could either sulk or turn it around. I knew I had to prove myself again." Happ posted a 3.60 ERA in 24 games with Triple-A Lehigh Valley. That season was interrupted in July for two Major League starts. His contributions then and now haven't gone unnoticed -- not that he'll let himself believe it. "I hope so," he said. "It's been a lot more positive and I had a little bit of success. I feel better about next year."
Ken Mandel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less