The Pirates acquired J.A. Happ right at the 4 pm July 31 trade deadline. It's not clear if the Bucs were incredibly unlucky with the timeline of events leading up to that move or if they just reached a point where they felt long-man and sixth starter Vance Worley was no longer a viable option. Hours after DFAing Worley to make room for Joe Blanton, A.J. Burnett got bombed for the third straight outing and ended up on the disabled list. Neal Huntington was left with virtually no starting pitching depth just 12 hours from the trade deadline.
If Burnett had pitched Wednesday, not Thursday, would the Pirates have DFA'd Deolis Guerra (who was DFA'd the next day after the addition of Joakim Soria) rather than Worley? Only Neal Huntington knows for sure, but the decision left the Pirates in a tight spot with no leverage in the trade market.
They acquired Happ in exchange for AAA starter Adrian Sampson and plugged him into Burnett's rotation spot. His number came up last night and he made his Pirates debut against the Cubs at PNC Park. It wasn't pretty. Happ's line:
4.1 IP, 8 H, 4 R, 2 BB, 6 K, 99-59
Unfortunately for the Pirates that is right in-line with what Happ has done lately. His season is a tale of two halves. Here are Happ's numbers for his first 11 starts with the Mariners:
65.1 IP, 67 H, 24 ER, 14 BB, 49 K, 6 HR, 3.31 ERA, 1.239 WHIP, .700 OPS-against
Here are Happ's numbers in his 10 starts since June 5, including last night:
46.2 IP, 62 H, 36 ER, 20 BB, 37 K, 7 HR, 6.94 ERA, 1.757 WHIP, .870 OPS-against
Happ went at least five innings in 10 of his first 11 starts and at least six in eight of them. In his most recent 10 starts Happ's gotten past the fifth only five times and he has failed to go five innings in four of his last five.
The Pirates have to skip Happ the next time though the rotation. They have off days on Thursday and Monday. Happ is next schedule to pitch when the Pirates open up a three-game series in St. Louis. He can't make that start. They can move Jeff Locke up a day and he would still be pitching on five days rest rather than the customary four. Gerrit Cole would then pitch the second game on four days rest and Francisco Liriano or Charlie Morton, depending on how they line-up this weekend, would go the third game on four days rest.
I don't see the Pirates cutting ties with Happ after just one start. But with Vance Worley likely to accept his outright assignment to AAA Indianapolis, Radhames Liz pitching well in AAA, Clayton Richard and Bud Norris available after being designated for assignment and other names potentially available in trade market this month, Happ's next outing could certainly be his last.