New Mariners starting pitcher J.A. Happ hits the ground running

Feb 27, 2015, 4:01 PM | Updated: 4:06 pm
Of J.A. Happ's five pitches, his change-up will get the most attention at Mariners spring training. (AP)

PEORIA, Ariz. – New Mariner J.A. Happ threw to hitters for the first time Friday afternoon under the watch of pitching coach Rick Waits. While Happ is new he is hardly unfamiliar to Waits, who began work with him shortly after he signed.

“It was good,” said Happ, who had several phone conversations with Waits about what he wanted to accomplish this spring. “It was about getting on the same page. Then I was down here in January and he was able to come down and watch a few bullpens and we got to talk quite a bit more. That was definitely nice.”

Waits spends his offseason in Patagonia, Ariz., just south of Tucson, and makes a few trips a month to Peoria to work with pitchers in the fall and winter. The get-to-know-you-as-a-person-and-pitcher phase was taken care of early, allowing Happ to now concentrate on his work in camp. Today he threw all of his pitches – two-seam and four-seam fastballs, curve, cutter and change – to a group of young hitters. According to Waits the changeup will get plenty of attention this spring.

“The changeup will be a focus, getting that back,” he said. “He has been in and out with it. The changeup is crucial for him as a lefty, but he has been working hard on it and will continue to do so this spring, getting that feel back. There will be a lot of changeups.”

Consistency with the pitch is the name of the game and Happ admits it has been a struggle at times.

“I tend to change grips sometimes and I tend to search for it,” said Happ, who is now throwing the changeup with a circle grip as opposed to the split grip he used most of last season. “I am just looking for consistency more than anything. I haven’t been as consistent the last few years with the circle as I know that it can be. The other part is the mentality trusting that it will be there, just throwing it and not trying to pinpoint it. It’s a work in progress.”

Happ received some good feedback on the pitch today from Mike Zunino, who caught him.

“We’ve had some good conversations,” Happ said of the relationship with his new catcher. “He’s so open and willing to everything, which is great. He’s a hard worker. I have heard good things from other guys about the in-game stuff and he really takes pride in that from what I hear. I thought he was great back there today, and I told him as much.”

So far so good for Happ, who has most of the new team transitions behind him.

Date Starting Pitcher
Tuesday, September 27 @ 6:40 pm

Mariners Roof Report

Brought to you by
High 78° | Low 57°
Roof is open
Rangers at Mariners today at 6:40pm

Seattle Mariners

Mariners Ty France Mitch Haniger...
Mike Salk

Salk: 5 keys for Mariners to finish playoff push in final 10 games

The Mariners are closing in on clinching a playoff spot, but they're coming off a brutal road trip. Mike Salk breaks down what they need to do.
3 hours ago
Mariners Luis Castillo...
The Associated Press

Mariners believe rotation set for future after Luis Castillo deal

In the middle of putting the finishing touches on the largest and most complex contract in franchise history, the Mariners began discussions about another impact deal.
1 day ago
Mariners Adam Frazier...
Brent Stecker

Mariners Breakdown: Reconciling painful collapse with playoffs in grasp

Bob Stelton of Seattle Sports' Wyman and Bob explains why he thought Sunday was the worst single-game loss in Mariners history and much more.
1 day ago
Mariners Dylan Moore...
Shannon Drayer

Drayer: What happened on Mariners’ rough road trip, what’s next and injury updates

Mariners insider Shannon Drayer looks at the team's struggles on their recent road trip, looks ahead to their 10-game homestand, and provides injury updates.
1 day ago
Mariners J.P. Crawford...
Joe Fann

Fann: Fair or not, Mariners players carry burden of franchise’s playoff drought

Joe Fann puts into perspective how the Mariners players and fans look at the franchise's 21-year playoff drought and the team's recent struggles differently.
1 day ago
Mariners Mitch Haniger...
Brent Stecker

Where Mariners’ quest for playoff spot stands after collapse in KC

How fans should be feeling about the Mariners' chances of ending their postseason drought in less than two weeks and how they are actually feeling right now are probably two different things.
2 days ago
New Mariners starting pitcher J.A. Happ hits the ground running