DUNEDIN, Florida - The Blue Jays and J.A. Happ aren't on the same page.
"I'm a major league starting pitcher," said Happ. "I guess I'll leave it at that for right now."
Happ, 30, continued his impressive spring on Sunday, scattering four hits and striking out two over 3.1 scoreless innings in the Blue Jays 3-0 loss to the Yankees.
The Blue Jays' blessing – starting pitching depth – is Happ's curse. The six-year veteran has an option, meaning he can be sent to Triple-A without clearing waivers, and barring the unforeseen, he will start the season in Buffalo.
Happ's other potential opportunity, the long role out of the bullpen, is just as unappealing and unlikely. First, Happ's main competition, Brett Cecil, is out of options and it's likely the Jays would lose Cecil on waivers should he be cut; second, the Jays want Happ throwing starter's innings in case injury or poor performance opens a spot in the major league rotation.
"It's very frustrating," said Happ. "I told myself a couple of things before coming into camp: that I would stay as positive as I could and just let kind of let things play out so I'm trying to do that. I know there are other people in the stands as well so I'm just trying to keep my routine and see what happens."
Complicating matters further is the fact Happ has soundly outpitched Ricky Romero so far this spring. After Sunday, Happ had posted a 1.93 ERA in 9.1 innings of work; Romero is sporting a 6.35 ERA in 5.2 innings and his most recent outing was cut short when he hit his 45-pitch limit an inning ahead of schedule.
Regardless, the fifth starter's spot is Romero's.
"I definitely feel for him but he knows what he's facing; it's been laid out pretty good and he's read about it," said Gibbons. "Before it's all said and done, he's going to help us a lot of ways. He knows what he's up against."
Happ won't confirm publicly whether he's asked for a trade.
"I don't know how much more needs to be said (between Happ and the Blue Jays,") said Happ. "But I think, here, as we go along, I'm sure we'll have another conversation in the next 10 days or so."
Happ was acquired last July 20 in a 10-player deal with the Astros. He appeared in 10 games for the Blue Jays last season, starting six and posting a 3-2 record with a 4.69 ERA.
"It's not like they don't know what I'm capable of doing," said Happ. "I don't feel a huge amount of pressure in every (spring) outing. Obviously I want to do well and continue to be sharp, I think that's what everybody's trying to do. I don't think I'm a complete unknown as far as every outing kind of hanging in the balance with the results."
Happ is signed through this season and will make $3.7 million whether he pitches in Toronto, Buffalo or somewhere else. He will be third-year arbitration eligible at the end of the year and doesn't become a free agent until the end of the 2014 season.
"He's a competitor, I mean it's his career and he deserves a shot (at being a regular starter,) but it's not going to happen right now," said Gibbons. "He'll probably, at the beginning of next year, be laughing and forget all about this."
The Blue Jays have the day off and will return to action Tuesday against the Red Sox in Fort Myers. Justin Germano is scheduled to start. Brandon Morrow will throw on Tuesday in a minor league game at the Mattick Training Center. He's due for four innings and 60 pitches.