The positive news keeps rolling in for J.A. Happ, as the veteran left- hander inked a two-year contract extension worth a total of $8.9 million on Wednesday night.
The signing comes just one day after Happ beat out fellow lefty Ricky Romero for the No. 5 spot in the Blue Jays' starting rotation. Happ is set to earn $3.7 million in 2013 and $5.2 million in '14, with the potential to earn an additional $6.7 million in '15 with a club option.
Happ was unavailable for comment, but did speak earlier in the day after pitching 4 2/3 innings against the Rays as he reacted to the news about making the starting rotation.
"It was great. It was definitely a relief," Happ said in Port Charlotte, Fla. "I obviously had been wondering and pushing the best I could, so it was definitely really, really nice to get that call."
Happ was already set to earn $3.7 million in 2013 and had one year of arbitration eligibility remaining. He's now guaranteed an extra $5.2 million, and in return the Blue Jays have the option of taking away his first year of free agency.
The 30-year-old Happ was 10-11 with a 4.79 ERA and a career-high 144 strikeouts a year ago with the Astros and Blue Jays, coming to Toronto last July. He has a career mark of 35-35 with a 4.19 ERA in six seasons with the Phillies (2007-10), Astros (2010-12) and Jays ('12).
Earlier in the day, Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said Happ's presence made it easier for the team to demote Romero to Class A Dunedin on Tuesday night to work on his mechanics.
Happ had been stating his case this spring, finishing his Grapefruit League campaign with a 1.90 ERA. But he's also proven himself as a capable Major League starter in his six seasons.
"Nobody could've had a better spring than he did. [Happ] came in here determined to make the team," manager John Gibbons said. "He said so publicly that he should be one of the starters here, but he put his money where his mouth is. Not everybody does that. And rightfully so, because he deserves to be a Major League starter somewhere, with the 30 teams out there. He's good.
"Just the way it was set up this year, it wasn't going to be the case, but he did his thing and then Ricky faltered a little bit, so Happ comes out on top. The thing about Happ is, it's not like he's some young greenhorn that hasn't been at this level and you're taking a gamble. He's had some success. The big leagues isn't going to rattle him. He's a proven commodity."
Happ admitted that the news took a huge weight off his shoulders, not only because of what he felt he deserved, but also due to the uncertainty of simply not knowing where he was headed after Spring Training. He will hang back in Florida and throw either a simulated game or pitch in a Class A Minor League game on Monday before making his first start of the season in the Majors, likely April 6 against the Red Sox.
Happ made his final Spring Training appearance Wednesday, allowing one run on four hits and four walks while striking out four. He said he got into too many deep counts and didn't pitch as many innings as he hoped to, but Gibbons said he was surprised the lefty even pitched that well considering he wasn't pitching for a job like he had been all spring.
For his part, Happ said that wasn't even on his mind when he took the mound to face Tampa Bay. But before and after that? Sure, he might have felt a little different than he did the day before.
"Excited more than anything, as I think everybody is about this ballclub," Happ said. "I'm hoping it's going to be a lot of fun."
Gregor Chisholm is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, North of the Border, and follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB. Adam Berry is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @adamdberry. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.