OAKLAND -- Blue Jays left-hander J.A. Happ was left battered and bruised on the mound Sunday afternoon, but it had nothing to do with his pitching performance. He fell victim to the comebackers.
Happ was struck twice by batted balls during Toronto's 5-3 victory over the A's. A line drive in the fifth inning went off his left forearm, and another hot shot up the middle struck the back of his right thigh in the sixth.
All of this from a guy who missed three months of the 2013 season after he was struck on the head by a line drive during a game in Tampa Bay. That incident was both scary and serious, but thankfully for Happ, he escaped Sunday's game without anything severe.
"[Josh Thole] told me they were going to bring out the L-screen [used during batting practice] for me if I went out for the next inning," a smiling Happ told reporters after the game.
The first incident happened in the fifth, when Oakland center fielder Jake Smolinski hit a hard liner up the middle. The ball struck the upper portion of Happ's left forearm and was dangerously close to his elbow. Toronto's training staff immediately ran onto the field and discovered a large welt that was bleeding.
The immediate concern was that Happ might have a broken bone, but he went through several strength tests on the mound and that was quickly ruled out. He was able to make a fist and had normal rotation of both his elbow area and left hand. That was enough to keep him in the game, but the next inning there was another scare.
This time it was a grounder from Josh Reddick that hit Happ on his right hamstring. That ball ricocheted toward first baseman Justin Smoak, and the Blue Jays were still able to get the out. Despite the scares, Happ, who had been pitching well, remained in the game.
After the Reddick putout, the next two A's players reached base, and the Blue Jays opted to not push Happ any further. Toronto had a 3-1 lead, and Happ was at just 84 pitches through 5 2/3 innings. He normally would have kept going, but the Blue Jays wanted to be extra careful.
"It was in the back of my mind," manager John Gibbons said. "You go through that inning before, then he came in he's sitting there, you never know how a guy is going to react. We were in the middle of the lineup, I thought, 'You know what? If he's not at his best, those guys can burn you.' [The comebacker] was a big part of it."
Happ had his left forearm bandaged after the game but did not seem overly concerned about the injury. There is some danger that it could swell and tighten overnight, but Happ remained confident he'd be good to go for his next outing.
"It was fine, just a little stiff," Happ said.