MINNEAPOLIS — J.A. Happ is no stranger to pitching out of the bullpen in the postseason. Eight of his 12 postseason appearances going into Monday night have been as a reliever, including a scoreless eighth inning in the Yankees’ Game 1 victory over the Twins in the AL Division Series.
But Happ was in a tricky spot going into Game 3 on Monday night at Target Field.
Happ had to be ready in case he was needed out of the pen. He also needed to be ready to possibly start Game 4 on Tuesday night if the Twins managed to extend the series.
“Since I don’t really have any more information than you, I’m just going game-to-game,’’ Happ said. “I was live the first two games. I’ll be live the third and go from there.”
Monday’s Yankee starter was Luis Severino, who had averaged four innings in each of his three starts this season. So the bullpen door was likely to swing open early for the Yankees as they tried to sweep the series and advance to the ALCS.
“I would say that anything's on the table still,” manager Aaron Boone said. “We're going to pour everything in. Happ will be available in Game 3, and we'll just see how it unfolds, and then we'll go from there. Hopefully, we're in a position to where we're not making the decision, but we'll cross that bridge if we have to. We're going into Game 3 with the old ‘all hands on deck,’ and J.A. will be part of that mix in the pen for us in Game 3.”
Happ pitched out of the bullpen once this season — a five-inning stint against the Rays on Sept. 25. But that was planned as Happ relieved opener Jonathan Loaisiga in the second inning.
Depending on reliever usage in Game 3, Boone could repeat that strategy in Game 4 by using an opener such as Chad Green and then going to Happ as his “bulk” guy.
“I’m trying to adapt,’’ Happ said. “It affects your in-between work as far as workouts, but that’s fine. It’s October. You adjust and I’ve adjusted.”
Happ is in the position of being the No. 4 starter for a team that may only need three starters because he had an uneven season. The 36-year-old went 12-8 with a 4.91 ERA. His work down the stretch was much better than it had been all summer.
Still, Happ allowed 34 home runs in 161 1/3 innings. The Twins set the all-time MLB record with 307 home runs. So that could be a problematic mix for the Yankees.