J.A. Happ will not make his next start as scheduled after an MRI revealed a mild flexor pronator muscle strain in his left arm, the Phillies announced Monday. But he has not been placed on the disabled list as of yet.
The following is a statement from general manager Ruben Amaro Jr.:
“J.A. Happ experienced soreness in his left elbow after his last start. He was seen by Dr. Michael Ciccotti and had an MRI. The MRI revealed a very mild flexor pronator muscle strain. J.A. has been progressing and improving since then, but we will take a conservative approach and skip his next start. He is scheduled for a bullpen session on Thursday.”
With the off day, the Phillies can skip Happ's scheduled start for Wednesday in Atlanta. Roy Halladay, who will start on regular rest, will pitch Wednesday instead. Jamie Moyer will start Thursday.
Happ's next turn in the rotation would be Saturday in Arizona. The Phillies, presumably, will make a call on that after Happ throws his bullpen session Thursday. If he can't go then, Nelson Figueroa could earn a spot start.
From the Phillies' point of view, it almost made too much sense to not have Happ pitch Wednesday. Because of the off day, they have some flexibility. It's April and the time of the season to be overly cautious if necessary.
Pitching coach Rich Dubee told me Sunday that Happ experienced the soreness in his forearm at the beginning of his last start, Thursday against Washington. But as he pitched, the pain lessened.
Dubee suggested this could be a "dead arm period" that pitchers will typically go through at times early ina season.
"These guys aren't machines," Dubee said. "The same thing doesn't come out of their arm each time."
But the soreness lingered in the following days. Happ did not do his normal side work in between starts and lightly threw for about 10 minutes on flat ground before Sunday's game with batting practice pitcher Ali Modami. Dubee watched Happ closely and the two chatted briefly afterward.
Apparently, there was enough concern following that session for Happ to undergo an MRI Monday.
The flexor pronator muscle in the forearm provides protection to the elbow. Lingering strains can cause elbow injuries down the line.