Many fans wondered why two of the Phillies top ten prospects coming into 2007 fizzled so badly last season. Now, we know the reason; injuries.
J.A. Happ, who was ranked as the Phillies number one prospect by Philly Baseball News, posted a 5.02 ERA last season at Triple-A Ottawa, after not having an ERA higher than 2.81 in his minor league career. There were conflicting reasons on why Happ struggled so badly, including that he was disappointed over not getting a promotion to the Phillies or that pitching in Ottawa was simply not conducive to success for young pitchers. Now, assistant general manager Mike Arbuckle confirmed that Happ struggled all season with elbow woes, which kept him from heading to the Arizona Fall League after the regular season. Happ didn't let anyone know that he was hurting and instead, pitched through the pain until he couldn't stand it any longer and finally let the Phillies know just how bad it had gotten.
"We ended up in a rehab program with him [Happ] all fall," said Arbuckle. "He seems to be 100%."
The news on Segovia, who underwent Tommy John surgery earlier in his career, is a little scarier. Arbuckle and others in the Phillies organization suspected that something wasn't right with Segovia, but he insisted that he was okay. Again, there were issues and after the season, Segovia underwent posterior shoulder release surgery and has been in Clearwater rehabbing his shoulder. "We felt he was restricted all year, so he ended up going in and having the procedure. He says he feels the best, and our guys in Florida say his deliveries and everything is better than we've seen in a long time," reported Arbuckle.
Arbuckle believes that both pitchers are poised to bounce back in 2008 and could potentially challenge for spots in the Phillies rotation in camp or give the Phillies some insurance should they need starters later in the season. As far as Arbuckle is concerned, he's happy that both pitchers appear to be healthy, but he isn't happy about how the players handled the injuries. Happ saw himself as being insurance for the Phillies last season and figured that the call could come at any time, which is why he wasn't quick to let the Phillies know about his injury. Instead, he tried to pitch through the pain and saw his numbers head to a point where there was no way the Phillies would recall him anyway. Segovia didn't have as much pain as Happ experienced, but also knew that something wasn't right, as did the Phillies. In the future, Arbuckle hopes that both players will be a little more forthcoming about injuries and wishes that there was a way to get through to young players that it's not all about the short-term. "It's very, very hard. Kids at that age tend to think they're invincible anyway and you try to emphasize to them that if you're hurting and you keep pitching, you could do long-term serious damage," said Arbuckle. "It's better to back you off short-term and maybe do some rehab to get you back on track," is Arbuckle's message to young players.
Happ and Segovia both took a hit in their status as prospects, but as Arbuckle was quick to point out, both could be poised for nice seasons in 2008. "I haven't lost any faith in either of those guys," stressed Arbuckle. "In fact, I see them as guys that we can look at and keep in our back pocket."