No official decisions have been announced with regards to J.A. Happ's immediate future. But you definitely got the feeling today that the Phillies are going to err on the side of caution and send him down to the minor leagues. They could apply for an extension to his rehab stint. But Happ has options remaining, which means they can just as easily activate him and send him down to continue pitching every five days.
"From the sound of what they are telling me, it sounds more like he might still need some work," manager Charlie Manuel said.
Happ thinks he's ready. And he showed some real signs of progress last night at Lehigh Valley, particularly with regard to his velocity and arm speed. If the Phillies had an obvious candidate for removal from the rotation, you have to think they'd stick Happ in there and let him iron out whatever issues he still has while also pitching in the big leagues. But in the fourth inning last night, his velocity dropped a couple of clicks, and he struggled to find the strike zone, and rather than take a chance on him scuffling at the big league level, the Phillies sound like they are looking for him to prove that he is ready before they bring him back to the big league roster.
Pitching coach Rich Dubee said that, in his opinion, activating Happ and putting him in the bullpen would be counterproductive.
Chase Utley returned from his hip surgery in 2009 quicker than expected. And it sounds like he is determined to do the same this season with his surgically-repaired thumb. The Phillies said they think eight weeks is a realistic timetable. But Utley sounded convinced he could get back a week ahead of schedule.
"It takes about five weeks for that ligament to heal back up properly, another week or so to get the movement back in your hand and then, as far as a baseball standpoint, 2-3-4-5 games to get back in shape that way," said Utley, who had his surgery on Thursday. "Obviously, were going to have to see how it goes. But at this point I'm pretty optimistic."
Ryan Madson will pitch in Lehigh Valley tonight and tomorrow night. Assuming all goes well, he'll then be activated and be available to pitch in the last handful of games before the All-Star Break.