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J.A. Happ on trade to Yankees: ‘Excitement and relief’

It’s his sixth big-league club but the first time in the Big Apple: ‘I like to compete and there is probably no better stage to do that.’

New Yankee J.A. Happ, here pitching for Toronto

New Yankee J.A. Happ, here pitching for Toronto on April 9, 2018, is 10-6 with a 4.18 ERA this season, but July has been rough on him, with an 0-3 record and 7.41 ERA. Photo Credit: AP / Nick Wass

When J.A. Happ learned Thursday night that the Yankees had acquired him from the Blue Jays, he was happy about not only the clarity it provided but the opportunity to pitch on the New York stage.

“It was excitement and it was relief,” said the 35-year-old lefthander, who had long been linked to the Yankees leading up to Tuesday’s non-waiver trade deadline. “I think there was some anxiety leading up to the deadline, of course. I thought that I might go somewhere, I just didn’t know where. But what a great place. I’m looking forward to it. I like to compete and I think there is probably no better stage to do that.”

Happ, who is scheduled to start against the Royals at Yankee Stadium on Sunday and will be pitching for his sixth team, was 10-6 with a 4.18 ERA for Toronto this season. He was 20-4 with a 3.18 ERA for the Blue Jays in 2016 and finished sixth in the Cy Young Award voting. He also spent part of 2012 there, as well as all of 2013-14.

Happ touched on the impact that pitching in the AL East over the years has had on his success. “Just having been in the division for five of the past six years, you’ve got to try to learn to survive. And for the most part, I feel like I’ve been able to do that. I don’t know that I can pinpoint it myself, but you’re not gonna last very long unless you find a way to do that.”

Being so well-known within the division could be perceived as a negative by some pitchers, but Happ preferred to view it in a different light.

“I think it depends how you look at it,” he said. “I think I’m gonna try to take it as an advantage, where I’ve faced the guys before and have a memory bank to go back to and try to utilize as far as the scouting standpoint. That’s kind of gonna be my insight.”

Happ, who has a 0-3 record and 7.41 ERA in July, understands where he needs to improve most.

“I think the results haven’t been there,” he said. “But I think there’s no physical issue, really. For me, it’s always been about being aggressive. I think I get in trouble when I put guys on base, give free passes. That seems to be something, when I look back on poor results, that’s usually the indicator. So I’ll try to avoid those as best as I can and take my chances.”

One thing certainly makes this next stop in Happ’s career feel different.

“I think all players, if they’re being honest, have that question in the back of their head of what it would be like to put the pinstripes on,” he said. “So, definitely special, and it feels about right.”

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