TAMPA, Fla. -- J.A. Happ's half-season with the Yankees in 2018 produced so many positives that the veteran left-hander felt confident signing on for another tour. He's now expected to help comprise what he believes will be one of the American League's more formidable starting rotations."The biggest pro of coming
TAMPA, Fla. -- J.A. Happ's half-season with the Yankees in 2018 produced so many positives that the veteran left-hander felt confident signing on for another tour. He's now expected to help comprise what he believes will be one of the American League's more formidable starting rotations.
"The biggest pro of coming back here was the fact that I was able to spend two months there and learn what the team was about, learn some of the players and get to know them," Happ said on Friday. "I know that they're all-in, every year, trying to win a championship. Especially at this stage of my career, that's a big motivating factor."
The 36-year-old Happ made 11 regular-season starts with the Yankees following his July 26 acquisition from the Blue Jays, winning his first five efforts and going 7-0 with a 2.69 ERA, though he took the loss in Game 1 of the AL Division Series against the Red Sox.
Happ and the Yankees reached agreement in December on a two-year, $34 million deal that includes a $17 million option for 2021. That will vest if Happ makes 27 starts or completes 165 innings in '20, placing the maximum value of the deal at $51 million.
"This is a situation where I felt like I could bet on myself a little bit," Happ said. "It was all around the best-case scenario when I put everything into play and considered everything."
The Yankees envision Happ pitching toward the back of a rotation that projects to be headlined by Luis Severino, James Paxton and Masahiro Tanaka, with CC Sabathia serving as the fifth starter in his 19th Major League season, which he's said will be his final season.
"I like [the rotation], but I've also been around long enough to know it doesn't matter what anybody says on Day 1," Happ said. "I think the biggest thing for us is staying healthy.
"I certainly like what Pax can bring to the table if he stays healthy. I played with him in Seattle [in 2015] and saw the glimpses there. I was on the other side last year [in Toronto] when he threw a no-hitter against us. That's exciting. I like where we're at."
Despite the forgettable outing in the ALDS, Happ's past success against the Red Sox could benefit the Yankees this year. He is 8-4 with a 2.98 ERA in 21 career games (20 starts) against Boston, including a 1.99 ERA in four regular-season starts last year.
Happ said that he will be excited to hand the ball over to the powerful bullpen that the Yankees have assembled, with Dellin Betances, Zack Britton, Chad Green, Jonathan Holder and Adam Ottavino working to get the ball to closer Aroldis Chapman.
"It looks good on paper. I like it," Happ said. "You certainly theoretically feel good about those guys coming in after a guy like myself or whoever comes out of the game. It feels good to have those guys coming in to close it down for you."
Bryan Hoch has covered the Yankees for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch and on Facebook.