TAMPA – J.A. Happ was standing in front of his locker on Steinbrenner Feld on Friday after a low season of uncertainty when the left-hander was shipped from the Bronx after the signing of Gerrit Cole.

"It's good to be back," said Happ. "Should I be surprised to be back? [in the media] You had a different opinion this off-season, didn't you? It feels good. "

But Happ admitted he had questions about his future after the Yankees Cole signed a $ 324 million record nine-year deal in December. The two played together in Pittsburgh in the second half of 2015 when Happ was trading from Seattle and Cole was in the majors in his third year.

"I immediately sent him a message:" I hope we will be teammates again, "said Happ." Of course congratulations to him and we are happy to have him. Everyone would be happy to have such a man on your team. We are here now. Hopefully we will get further from this conversation. "

General manager Brian Cashman said they called Happ earlier in the off-season before finally deciding to keep part of the south paw because James Paxton's back injury flared up in November. This disease caused Paxton to have surgery this month, which will take him out of circulation at least until May.

Happ added that he spoke to the Yankees in the off-season to assess his status.

YES. I like to work with Gerrit Cole
YES. I like to work with Gerrit ColeCharles Wenzelberg / New York Post

"I understand that this is the nature of the deal," Happ said of the trade rumors. "But I'm definitely glad I'm here."

Now that he's still in the Bronx, both Happ and the Yankees are looking for better results than 2019, his first full season as Yankee.

Happ allowed a career high of 34 homers and an ERA of 4.91, his worst grade in almost a decade. He seemed particularly affected by the short right-hand porch at Yankee Stadium and the baseball changes used last year that resulted in less drag and more home runs, according to a report released in December.

"I don't like making excuses, so I think any answer other than" I have to be better "is not the right answer," Happ said of the evidence that the construction of the balls used in 2019 helped set a new record Home runs with the majors. "And I have to be better and I plan to get better."

Aaron Boone believes this will be the case, citing Happ's track record and the Yankees' belief that he was not as bad as his numbers indicated.

"The results were not as good as we think he threw the ball last year," said the manager. “He played really well a few times and maybe a long ball caught him and ruined the trip. He threw the ball well for us and even in the playoffs … I assume that he was the J.A. Fortunately, we've seen most of his career. "

Happ worked on his mechanics, but does not plan to completely change his approach.

“I plan to adapt a bit of my repertoire as much as possible [can] to move forward, "Happ said of adapting to a ball more vulnerable to Homer." Also, my strengths are my strengths. So I try to make both of them work as well as possible. "

YES. Happ
YES. HappCharles Wenzelberg / New York Post

He spent the off-season tinkering with his off-speed parking spaces and mechanics. Happ ended last season with an ERA of 1.65 in his last five appearances – four starts with 27 1/3 innings. Still, he was pushed by the off-season rotation and is expected to earn $ 17 million this season, with a vesting option for another $ 17 million in 2021.

Happ also had tendinitis near his left shoulder at the end of last year and strengthened the area over the winter. He also started throwing earlier in the off-season than he usually does.

"I've done a lot more live punching exercises to see in real time whether some of the things I've worked on are useful or not, and at least get some early views on them," Happ said. "This is still under construction."

And for the foreseeable future, he will have the chance to recover with the Yankees.

"I'm looking forward to being back," said Happ. "This is definitely the place I would like to be."