Jays’ Happ sidelined with back inflammation

J.A. Happ. (Mark Blinch/CP)

DUNEDIN, Fla. — Blue Jays starter J.A. Happ will miss his next start in order to rest a nagging back injury that has bothered him for more than a week.

Happ was scheduled to pitch on Saturday against the Minnesota Twins and told the club he wanted to make the start and pitch through the pain. But Blue Jays manager John Gibbons refused and ordered the 31-year-old to rest the injury.

“We forced him to shut it down,” Gibbons said. “If you keep pushing it, you can aggravate it worse and next thing you know you’re on the DL.”

Happ reported the injury to the club after his first start of the spring on February 26 against the Phillies. He was given treatment for inflammation but team doctors were unable to find anything structurally wrong with him.

The injury flared up again following his second spring start on March 3, a disastrous outing against the Twins when Happ gave up two hits, walked four and recorded just one out.

“You’re always banged up in this business but the back’s kind of a different thing. It affects everything you do,” Gibbons said. “Sometimes, if it’s just a mild thing—everybody deals with that. But if it gets to the point where it’s bothering you and affecting your performance, then you’ve got to back off a little bit.”

After his start against the Twins Happ refused to blame the injury for his poor performance. But on Wednesday, Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos said that he thought Happ’s command issues were due to the nagging back pain.

“I don’t want to make excuses for him,” Anthopoulos said. “I just don’t think we’re seeing him at 100 percent right now.”

At this point, there’s no indication of when Happ’s next appearance will be. Both Anthopoulos and Gibbons predicted the left-hander would need a few days to let the inflammation subside.

“We’ll just let it heal up. It shouldn’t be too long,” Gibbons said. “We don’t think it’s going to be any more than [a few days.] Hopefully we nip it in the bud and it’s fine.”

Drew Hutchison will start in Happ’s place Saturday afternoon and is expected to throw three innings. Dustin McGowan, Esmil Rogers and Kyle Drabek are scheduled to follow him.

INJURY UPDATES: Colby Rasmus was given a cortisone shot to relieve persistent neck pain on Wednesday. Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said he expects the centre fielder to be cleared to resume baseball activities on Saturday.

Rasmus was scratched from the starting lineup on Sunday, March 2 after sleeping in an awkward position and waking up with neck pain. The injury was originally expected to only sideline Rasmus for a “couple days” but the 27-year-old hasn’t played since.

“It was spasming pretty good,” Gibbons said. “So, we’ll see.”

Meanwhile, Blue Jays closer Casey Janssen continues to be limited to throwing on flat ground as he recovers from soreness in his right shoulder. Gibbons has maintained throughout the spring that Janssen takes less time to get his arm ready for the season than most pitchers, and that he fully expects the right-hander to be ready for opening day.

“Unless there’s another setback or something, he’ll have plenty of time,” Gibbons said.

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