TORONTO - There are at least two versions of James Anthony Happ.
There is the 26-year-old who speaks quietly and usually only when spoken to, who sits facing his locker and reading while teammates joke and yell and curse. That is J.A. Happ when he is not playing baseball.
Some athletes display the same personality traits - being mean, energetic, lackadaisical, or otherwise - on and off the field. Not Happ.
"Whatever impression I give off when I'm not pitching, maybe that I'm quiet, that's not what's going on inside of me," he said. "And I try to have a different edge on the mound."
For a glimpse of J.A. Happ's interior life, watch him when he is pitching well. He is aggressive, unshakable, and confident. That was the Happ whose five-hit shutout Saturday halted the team's losing streak and made manager Charlie Manuel's Friday meeting look brilliant.
If the Phillies see more of him this year - and less of the nibbler who can issue too many walks - their rotation and team will receive a desperately needed lift. Teammates and coaches expect to see more of the aggressive Happ.
"He's not afraid out there, and he's always been that way since I played with him in the minors," said Cole Hamels, who earned his advanced degree in mound presence during last year's postseason. "He's not afraid to go after hitters or to give up a run. He just doesn't have that fear of what-ifs when he's out there."
Between starts, Happ often writes a list of his goals for the next appearance. Most of them are technical - keep his shoulder closed during his delivery, maintain the correct landing spot after delivering his pitch - but the last item is often the same: be aggressive.
With a fastball that peaks in the low-90s, Happ is not a power pitcher. Pitching coach Rich Dubee said the lefty's repertoire requires precision, and precision, of course, requires aggressively throwing to the strike zone.
"Velocity gives you margin for error," Dubee said. "If you don't have velocity, you need to have better command. Happ is still working on that, but one thing about him is he doesn't rattle out there. He's got the same face on all the time."
Dubee first saw Happ pitch in a major-league game in 2007, when an epidemic of injuries in the Phillies' rotation led to a spot start for the pitcher against the New York Mets. Happ allowed five earned runs in four innings. "His stuff was erratic at times then, and he didn't have a developed change-up," Dubee said.
Happ was sent back to triple-A Ottawa, where he struggled for the rest of the season. That experience trained Happ in a skill that would be essential early this season - how to react to a perceived slight. Though tempted to gripe, his low-key manner prevailed.
"It was frustrating, trying to compete for a spot and not getting it when you felt like you deserved it," Happ said. "I could have vented and said a lot, but I tried to think long-term."
Happ internalized the frustration and released it on the mound, showing significant improvement in 2008. An even deeper disappointment came in late March of this year, however, when Happ lost a spring-training competition for the fifth spot in the rotation to Chan Ho Park. That provoked a rare appearance of the aggressive Happ off the mound.
Informed by the coaching staff of its decision, the pitcher stomped into the locker room at Bright House Field in Clearwater, Fla., flinging a piece of equipment into his locker. The following day, after his first relief appearance went badly, he stood for several minutes facing his locker, breathing heavily and grunting.
But the calm Happ, the one who had already endured similar disappointments, soon returned and decided it was wise to develop into an effective reliever. That assignment, though, was brief. The team sent Park to the bullpen in May and granted Happ an opportunity he had long desired.
He has generally pitched well - Happ is 5-0 with a 3.00 ERA - although his results have been tainted at times by a lack of control. Before Saturday's shutout, in which he walked no one, Happ had issued four or more bases on balls in three consecutive starts. Dubee was pleased to see improvement but expects Happ to still struggle at times with that issue.
"He needs more experience," the pitching coach said. "He needs to learn how to repeat his delivery the same way every time until it becomes muscle memory."
As he develops the physical aspect of his game, Happ benefits from having already learned to harness his aggression. He is quiet and reserved in life, but bold and brash on the field.
"You don't want to pitch angry," he said. "But I try to have an edge."
All-star voting. Manny Ramirez has dropped one spot, to seventh place, in the voting for National League outfielders in the final week of balloting for starters.
The Los Angeles Dodgers star, whose 50-game drug suspension is scheduled to end Friday, had 1,343,011 votes.
He trailed the Phillies' Raul Ibanez, with 2,970,139; Milwaukee's Ryan Braun, with 2,654,061; the New York Mets' Carlos Beltran, with 2,085,028; the Chicago Cubs' Alfonso Soriano, with 1,916,598; the Phillies' Shane Victorino, with 1,642,248; and the Brewers' Mike Cameron, with 1,345,763.
The top three outfielders are elected to start in the All-Star Game, to be played July 14 in St. Louis.
Others leading their positions in totals announced yesterday were St. Louis first baseman Albert Pujols, with 3,602,765 votes; Phillies second baseman Chase Utley, with 3,510,082; Florida shortstop Hanley Ramirez, with 2,026,174; Mets third baseman David Wright, with 2,049,487; and St. Louis catcher Yadier Molina, with 1,846,629.
Balloting continues through Thursday, and starters and reserves for both leagues will be announced Sunday.
Prospect moves up. The Phils promoted lefthander Yohan Flande to double-A Reading. He will start vs. Altoona tonight at Reading's FirstEnergy Stadium. Flande, 23, was 7-1 with a 2.52 ERA in 13 starts for single-A Clearwater.
Extra bases. Reliever Scott Eyre, on the disabled list since June 12, will start a rehab assignment tomorrow with the Gulf Coast Phillies in Clearwater. . . . The Phils put lefthander Antonio Bastardo on the 15-day DL with a strained left shoulder. They called up lefty Sergio Escalona from Lehigh Valley.
Feasting on the NL East
The Phillies finished interleague play 6-12, matching the 1997 Yankees (5-10) for the lowest winning percentage in interleague play for a defending World Series champion, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. Last year, the Phillies had the worst interleague record in a season (4-11) for any team that went on to win the World Series that year.
Here is what the NL East standings would look like against only the AL East this season. (Two NL teams played only 15 games against the other division because of the different number of teams in each league.)
NL East vs. AL East W-L NL East W-LFlorida 9-9 PHILLIES 39-34
Atlanta 7-8 Florida 39-39
Washington 7-11 N.Y. Mets 37-38
PHILLIES 6-12 Atlanta 35-40
N.Y. Mets 5-10 Washington 22-52
This article contains information from the Associated Press.