J.A. Happ is going to the All-Star Game.
The big question is, will it be as a member of the Toronto Blue Jays?
The lanky lefty’s participation in the mid-summer classic was confirmed by Major League Baseball on Sunday night when the rosters of both the American League and National League teams were revealed during a live television broadcast.
The game is July 17 in Washington and it will mark the first time Happ, 35, and in his 12th season, has been chosen to play.
“Really there’s no other way to describe it than it’s a dream come true,” Happ said. “I was a big baseball-card collector as a kid, I always collected all the all-star cards.
“Kind of a surreal moment … when I found out.”
Happ learned of his all-star nomination when manager John Gibbons made the announcement before the entire team in the clubhouse on Sunday, just before the Blue Jays played the New York Yankees in the finale of their three-game series at Rogers Centre.
“It’s a huge honour,” Gibbons said. “It’s not easy to be a starting pitcher in the big leagues. And then to make an all-star team … it’s just another feather in his cap.
“He’s kind of a late bloomer in this game and he only gets better and better.”
Brett Gardner singled home pinch runner Tyler Wade from second base in the top of the 10th inning to give the Yankees (58-29) a 2-1 victory over the Blue Jays (41-48) and a 2-1 series win.
In a testament to just how mediocre the Blue Jays have been this season, Happ is the only player on the team to get an all-star nod. Last year, two Blue Jays – Justin Smoak and Marco Estrada – made the grade. Two years ago, five Blue Jays were selected as all-stars.
Happ is a deserving choice, even with a couple of rough outings in his past two starts. He has a record of 10-5 with a 4.44 earned-run average. His 115 strikeouts rank him 11th over all in the AL.
It would be an interesting dilemma – not to mention a telling commentary on the status of the Blue Jays – if Happ is traded before the All-Star Game.
MLB’s trade deadline is July 31 and Happ is considered Toronto’s prime trade chip on a team that is spinning its wheels. He is also a free agent at the end of the season.
The Yankees, looking to overtake the Boston Red Sox in the AL East, are thought to be interested in Happ. The Chicago Cubs are also reportedly interested.
Every major-league team has at least one representative at the All-Star Game. If Happ is traded before the event, choosing his replacement from a talent-thin Blue Jays roster would not be so easy.
The most likely candidate would probably be Yangervis Solarte, who has played well at third base in the absence of Josh Donaldson. He’s hit 16 home runs, just two shy of the regular-season career high he clouted with San Diego last year.
If Happ is traded before the big game, he can only hope there is not a repeat of the fiasco that befell pitcher Jeff Samardzija in 2014.
A starting pitcher for the Chicago Cubs, Samardzija was selected to play that year at Minneapolis’s Target Field. About a week before the game, Samardzija was traded to the Oakland A’s.
Samardzija was allowed to go to the game but was prohibited from playing. Although he was by then playing in the American League, for the All-Star Game, he was given a generic cap and National League all-star jersey.
Sunday marked the finale of a nine-game Blue Jays home stand, during which they went 4-5.
The Yankees scored first in the first inning when a Miguel Andujar ground-out scored Aaron Judge from third base.
Toronto tied it in the sixth on a Kendrys Morales home run, the 200th of his career. He is the fifth Cuban-born player to reach that plateau.
The Blue Jays received another solid outing from rookie Ryan Borucki, who turned in his third successive quality start. He allowed one run and seven hits with five strikeouts over seven innings.
The Blue Jays are off on Monday before embarking on a six-game trip that will take them into next week’s all-star break. On Tuesday, they play in Atlanta with the first of a two-game set against the Braves before heading into Boston for four games against the Red Sox.