Happ, who the Phillies placed on the 15-day disabled list Thursday with a strained flexor pronator muscle in his left arm, stood on the brink of the big leagues as a 24-year-old lefty with Triple-A Ottawa in 2007. He had enjoyed three seasons of success in the Phils' farm system, and had made a spot start against the Mets. If he pushed himself, he felt he could join the big league club in the near future. But he finished the season with a 5.02 ERA because he pitched through the same soreness in his forearm.
"I didn't want to miss an opportunity," Happ said Thursday at Turner Field. "I didn't know my body as well. I was trying to get through it, and thought I could do it. I was a little more stubborn. I lacked the perspective that hopefully I have now."
Happ's DL stint is retroactive to Friday, which means he could be activated as early as May 1. Philadelphia activated left-hander J.C. Romero to take Happ's spot on the 25-man roster.
General manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said he is not certain how long it might take Happ to return, but he estimated it could be closer to weeks than a month. Amaro also said Happ is not scheduled to receive any more tests. Happ had a MRI on Friday.
Right-hander Nelson Figueroa will start Saturday against the D-backs at Chase Field. The Phillies do not need a fifth starter again until May 4 against the Cardinals at Citizens Bank Park. Righty Joe Blanton, who is recovering from a strained left oblique, needs two more rehab starts before rejoining the rotation. Blanton makes his second rehab start Friday with Double-A Reading. If Blanton makes his third rehab start Wednesday, he could rejoin the rotation May 3.
In a way, it could be worse.
Not that Happ feels any better about it. He threw 20 pitches in the bullpen Thursday afternoon. After a lengthy discussion with pitching coach Rich Dubee and head athletic trainer Scott Sheridan, Dubee ended the session.
Dubee said he could tell Happ wasn't right.
"We're trying to have better perspective, or I am," Happ said. "I think they're being smart about it, and I agree with them. I'm not quite there yet."
Happ will remain with the team and continue to throw, so he has not been shut down from throwing completely. That is why the Phils think he could be back sooner than later.
"It's progressed some, and we're hoping it continues to do that," Happ said. "Unfortunately, I think it's just one of those things that needs to not be stressed for a little while. When I let go of the ball, it's a very uncomfortable feeling. But it's not as intense and not quite as sharp as it was.
"The bullpen [session] today was OK, but I wouldn't feel like I'd be that successful trying to go out there and get big league hitters out. ... It's something that can get worse, and that's the reason that I'm not going to be pitching. It's something that I don't want to linger. It's not going to be effective for anybody if I try to pitch the way it is."
Amaro said the Phillies believe their current approach will allow the injury to subside and not linger like 2007. Of course, Happ had the entire offseason following the '07 season to recover. He does not have that opportunity now.
"He's already on a throwing progression," Amaro said. "He's progressed, and he's going to continue to progress. We just want to make sure we get it right."
Amaro added that the Phillies aren't jamming the panic button in regard to their staff.
In other words, they're not telling free agent Pedro Martinez to get ready.
"We believe Blanton is going to be back soon. We believe J.A. will be back soon," Amaro said. "We're not going to be panicking on this."
Happ said he isn't either, although he understands the risks. This injury can get worse, so he must be careful.
"I'm satisfied with where we're at with what I'm feeling and what they're saying and my answers to their questions," Happ said. "They're signifying it's more muscle and tendon rather than ligament at this point, which is good. But if I keep stressing it when it's already stressed, then the ligament will get stressed, too. It just needs to get better.
"It's frustrating. I'm a miserable person when I'm on the DL, so I'm going to try to be a little better about that. To not be a part of it and not compete, you just feel ... it's frustrating."