Happ hopes to rejoin Phillies' rotation

PHILADELPHIA -- J.A. Happ has to earn back his spot in the rotation.

The Philadelphia Phillies activated the left-hander from the disabled list and sent him to Triple-A Lehigh Valley on Tuesday.

"I was honest with him. I think he just wasn't pitching well enough to be in our rotation right now," general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said. "I think he will soon. But just from the way we evaluated him and the way he threw, he's making progress, but not well enough to break into our rotation at this time."

Happ, a 12-game winner as a rookie last year, had been sidelined with a left forearm strain since April. He made six rehab starts in the minors, going 1-1 with a 6.93 ERA. Happ said Monday that he was ready to rejoin the team, but the Phillies want him to get more work in the minors.

"He should get down there and work to get back up as soon as possible," pitching coach Rich Dubee said. "We've seen progress. It just didn't come fast enough."

Happ finished 12-4 with a 2.93 ERA in 35 games, including 23 starts, last season. He was second to Florida's Chris Coghlan in voting for the NL Rookie of the Year award.

Happ most likely would replace Kyle Kendrick in the rotation at some point. Kendrick is 5-3 with a 4.70 ERA.

The two-time NL champion Phillies entered Tuesday night's game against Atlanta four games behind the first-place Braves. Injuries have been a problem. Five-time All-Star Chase Utley and Placido Polanco, the team's leading hitter, are currently sidelined. So are catcher Carlos Ruiz and key relievers Ryan Madson and Chad Durbin.

Amaro said he's exploring help through trades, focusing more on helping the pitching staff rather than adding an infielder to replace Utley or Polanco.

"I'm always more concerned about the pitching," Amaro said. "At the end of the day, our team should be able to handle the loss of a couple of these guys offensively. It's difficult, but with the talent that we have offensively we should be able to absorb that. But you can never have enough pitching."