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BOS@TOR: Happ goes 5 1/3 shutout innings vs. Red Sox

It's been exactly three months since Blue Jays starter J.A. Happ has stepped on a big league mound.

In Wednesday's series finale vs. the Mariners he'll take the hill for the first time since a liner struck him in the head.

The left-hander sustained a skull fracture on May 7 against the Rays in St. Petersburg, but it was largely the sprained right knee that occurred on the same play that kept him away from the game so long. He officially rejoined his team on Tuesday, and was happy to be back in the Majors.

"I was happy just to get out there and compete again and throw to hitters with no screen in front of me, no turtle [backstop] behind them, just real competition," Happ said. "It was great. It's been great since then.

"I am happy about the way I feel now and I am happy to finally be here after all that because ... rehab's never fun, this kind of stuff wasn't fun."

He'll be opposed by veteran right-hander Aaron Harang, who will look to stop his club from being swept by Toronto.

Harang, however, will need a much better outing than his last time on the mound vs. the Orioles. The 35-year-old allowed seven runs and seven hits in five innings, raising his ERA to 5.27 on the year.

"I had a hard time getting loose," Harang said. "When your upper back is tight, it's hard to get extension, it's hard to feel like you have control out there. I was pulling a lot of balls trying to overcompensate for pitches I was missing on the arm side.

"In the third inning, I came in and the trainers adjusted me and I felt a lot better. But that first inning killed us. When you go out there and don't have a feel early in the game, it's tough. Right out of the chute it becomes a grind and you've got to battle through it."

His back tightness shouldn't be an issue on Wednesday.

"That's over and done with," said Mariners acting manager Robby Thompson. "He got his back cracked and the remainder of the game he felt pretty good. It was just that first inning that it bothered him."

Mariners: Wilhelmsen optioned
Former Seattle closer Tom Wilhelmsen was optioned to Triple-A Tacoma on Tuesday after a string of tough outings. His last appearance came on Thursday when he allowed four straight baserunners and blew a 7-2 lead against the Red Sox.

"It's basically a situation where we wanted him to go back down and regain his confidence," Thompson. "Regain pinpointing that fastball, having precise command with it like he's had in the past so his secondary stuff can work off of that."

Despite having 24 saves on the season, the 29-year-old has a WHIP over two over his last 9 2/3 innings. He allowed eight earned runs during that span.

"This is all about him right now," Thompson said. "It's not about trying to work him back into the closer's spot or setup guy or whatever. It's basically for Tom to get his confidence level back up, and once again, work on that fastball.

"He can go out, he can throw, and then he's done. He doesn't have to go down to the bullpen and sit around and wonder when his time is going to be. He's going to be on a set schedule, and he doesn't have to worry about any of the other stuff, other than him working on what he's down there to work on."

Blue Jays: Lawrie finding his stroke at the plate
Brett Lawrie may finally be out of Spring Training mode when it comes to his offense.

After being derailed by a pair of injuries earlier in the year, including missing almost all of Spring Training, Lawrie has been behind the eight-ball all season.

That, however, may be a thing of the past.

Lawrie is currently in the midst of a nine-game hitting streak, where he's gone 14-for-33 with a pair of home runs and a 1.168 OPS.

"It's important to get games under your belt, consistency," Lawrie said. "Just keep playing and playing and playing and getting more opportunities. The more opportunities you get, things are going to happen.

"Fortunately for myself, I'm in a good spot. [I'm] talking to some of the guys on the team just about hitting and just going up there with a mindset and a good approach and sticking to that approach. Getting my work in every day and just continuing to try to get better at this game, because you learn something new each day."

Blue Jays manager John Gibbons has also noticed quite a few changes with the young third baseman's at-bats.

"He's fouling off some tough pitches, where earlier he was swinging and missing and he was out," Gibbons said. "He's using the whole field now. That's big. Unless you're just a guy that hits a ton of home runs ... you got to take hits the other way."

Worth noting
• With the loss on Tuesday, the Mariners are 6-3-1 over their past 10 series. All three losses have come at the hands of the American League East, with the Red Sox taking the other two.

• The Blue Jays are 15-8 against the AL West this season, outscoring them 113-84.

• Jose Reyes' first-pitch home run off of Felix Hernandez on Tuesday was the 100th homer of his career. It also marked just the second first-pitch homer that Hernandez has allowed in his career. Comments