Twins hope J.A. Happ enhances trade value vs. Angels

MLB Minneapolis

One day after dealing All-Star designated hitter Nelson Cruz to the Tampa Bay Rays, the Minnesota Twins will start another player who has been mentioned as a possible trade candidate.

Left-hander J.A. Happ will take the mound Friday night against the Los Angeles Angels in the second game of a four-game series in Minneapolis.

Happ (5-5, 6.15 ERA) is 4-1 with a 4.25 ERA at Target Field this season, including 2-0 with a 3.46 ERA in his past two home starts against the Detroit Tigers and the Cleveland Indians. He struck out a total of 15 and walked one in 13 innings during those contests.

Another strong start and Happ, who is on a one-year, $8 million contract, could become a target in a trade market that is void of top starting-pitching talent.

Happ is 2-6 with a 5.14 ERA in nine career starts against Los Angeles. However, he hasn’t pitched against the Angels since April 22, 2019, when he was a member of the New York Yankees. Happ wasn’t involved in the decision after allowing two runs on three hits over seven innings.

Minnesota had a four-game home winning streak snapped Thursday when the Angels prevailed 3-2 in the series opener. Jack Mayfield hit a three-run homer and Andrew Heaney picked up his sixth victory of the season with seven strong innings, allowing two runs on four hits and two walks while striking out seven.

It was a rough night for the Twins, who learned about 90 minutes before the first pitch that the popular Cruz had been dealt. Minnesota sent the veteran slugger and minor league right-hander Calvin Faucher to the Rays in exchange for a pair of highly touted right-handed Triple-A starting pitching prospects, Drew Strotman and Joe Ryan.

“It was an emotional day in our clubhouse for a lot of people,” Minnesota manager Rocco Baldelli said. “Our guys were certainly able to prepare for the game and were ready to play, but it’s impossible to not also acknowledge and know that we just lost a member of our team who has been about as important to this organization and to this group as any player has been to an organization that I’ve been around and I’ve seen.”

“He’s my dad,” said first baseman Miguel Sano, who decided to wear Cruz’s old pants in the contest. “He’s my guy and everything, and I hope he’s coming back next year to the Twins’ organization. I saw him cry, and I’m crying too when I saw him like that.

“Everybody felt sad because of the kind of person he is, the kind of teammate. He’s a great man, great leader, great father.”

Los Angeles, which snapped a three-game losing streak in the series opener, will start right-hander Alex Cobb (7-3, 3.96 ERA) on Friday. Cobb is 3-3 with a 6.27 ERA in seven career starts against the Twins. He earned a 7-1 victory over Minnesota on May 20 in Anaheim when he allowed one run on four hits in five innings while striking out four.

The Thursday win was just the third time this season that Los Angeles prevailed while scoring three runs or fewer. One negative was that MVP candidate Shohei Ohtani continued his post-All-Star Game struggles, going 0-for-4 with three strikeouts. Ohtani is batting just .167 (4-for-24) with 14 strikeouts since the All-Star break.

When asked if he is worried about Ohtani, Angels manager Joe Maddon said, “No, not at all. He feels good. He feels upbeat. … He’ll come out of this thing. He’s not going to be perfect all year.”

–Field Level Media

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