Happ Will Start Saturday, Unless...

J.A. Happ is getting the nod to make his Major League debut Saturday against the New York Mets. While fans are anxious to see the left-hander take to the mound in Philadelphia, his debut could be pushed back, if...

J.A. Happ would figure to be ready for his big league debut. Phillies scouts have been watching him closely, looking to determine just when he was ready for a trip to Philadelphia or some other Major League city for his Phillies debut. After a discussion about Happ, the Phillies have decided that Happ is ready and the right choice to face the NL East leading New York Mets on Saturday.

The strange part of the move is that it wasn't made with any great announcement or proclamation. Instead, the Phillies simply put a note on their pre-game notes Wednesday listing Happ as the starter for Saturday's game when he'll be opposed by Jorge Sosa (6-3, 3.79) as the two teams battle for the division lead. In other words, the Phillies are bringing up their top prospect to face their main obstacle to a division title and it rated just a mention on pre-game notes. Strange.

So, why might the Phillies not trumpet the move?

The Phillies are working the phones, looking to make a move to bring a veteran starting pitcher to Philadelphia and would slot him into Saturday's game against the Mets. That is, if they can find one and make a deal; quickly.

Unfortunately for the Phillies, Tomo Ohka is the only potential move that looks doable before the Mets hit town. Ohka went 2-5 with a 5.79 ERA with Toronto before being released. The Cardinals assigned him to Triple-A Memphis and he seemed to be just as bad in his first start when he allowed four earned runs over five innings. He made his second start Monday night - yes, that puts him on the perfect path to start again Saturday - and pitched well, allowing three earned runs over eight innings of work. Where it gets interesting is that according to Ohka's contract with St. Louis, he must either be added to the Major League roster by Thursday or he can opt out of his deal. As for the Cardinals, they are doing what they can to keep him around, but they don't have a spot in the Major League rotation for him right now. They could talk him into staying and making a few more starts in the minors or they could simply take their chances.

One scenario would be for the Cardinals to decide they would rather have Ohka than Mike Maroth, who they added from the Detroit Tigers last week. That would leave them open to dealing Maroth to the Phillies, if they would be interested and at this point, their interest is only mild at best when it comes to Maroth.

Keep an eye on whether Ohka decides to trust the Cardinals and stay in their minor league system or whether he decides to cut himself loose and look for greener pastures in a place like Philadelphia.

Pat Gillick could simply look to the visitor's clubhouse at Citizens Bank Park for another option, but he better move quick. The Phillies have asked about Kyle Lohse (3-10, 5.02) and the Reds are in the mood to dump salary and would quickly move Lohse in the right deal. The problem is that he is scheduled to pitch against the Phillies Thursday night, so if Lohse is the man, the Phillies literally have just hours left to swing a deal. Lohse is a free agent after the season and is owed about $2.1 million for the rest of this season, which could fit into the Phillies payroll options.

The Baltimore Orioles are also looking to make some changes and would move Steve Trachsel (5-6, 4.55). The Phillies have talked to the Orioles about Trachsel, who spent much of his career in the National League. If they were to get Trachsel, they would owe him just under $1.6 million for this season and would hold a $4.75 million option for next season. The Phillies and Orioles are no strangers and their discussions go back to last winter when they nearly hooked up on a deal to send Pat Burrell to the O's, but Burrell refused to waive his no-trade clause.

For now though, Happ is the choice for the Phillies and will make his Major League debut in a key game against the New York Mets. Of course, if the right phone call comes through for the Phillies, Happ could be making his Saturday start not against the Mets, but against the Yankees; at least against their Triple-A affiliate when the Lynx host the Scranton Wilkes-Barre Yankees north of the border.


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