J.A. Happ threw six solid innings of one-run ball to win his Yankees debut as New York took the final game of a four-game series against the Kansas City Royals 6-3 on Sunday at Yankee Stadium.
"For him to go out there and give us a strong outing like he did, I'm sure he feels really good about that," Yankees manager Aaron Boone said, according to ESPN's Coley Harvey.
The 35-year-old Happ, whom the Yankees acquired last week from the Toronto Blue Jays in exchange for infielder Brandon Drury and outfielder Billy McKinney, said he had butterflies seeing himself in a Yankees uniform, but got over them quickly.
"It was kind of weird looking down and seeing the pinstripes on me," Happ (11-6) said. "But I'm happy to get used to it."
Happ allowed one run, three hits and one walk in six innings, carrying a shutout into the sixth inning until Salvador Perez hit a solo homer to right field. But the veteran lefthander didn't encounter much trouble, retiring 11 of the first 13 batters he faced.
Catcher Austin Romine said he felt he and Happ, who has now pitched with six teams in his 12-year career, had a strong rapport together.
"He knows how to pitch. He's been in situations before where he's got to pitch well," Romine said. "[Sunday] was a really professional performance, being on the mound and calm, like he's been there before. It was weird, but it almost felt like I had caught him before. We were so much on the same page."
Happ had a 4.18 ERA in 20 starts with Toronto this season, but the Yankees, after acquiring reliever Zach Britton from the Baltimore Orioles, also needed to upgrade their rotation ahead of the non-waiver trade deadline.
He had previously been 0-3 with a 7.41 ERA in his last four starts with the Blue Jays, but he becomes an upgrade over Luis Cessa and Domingo German, who have spent time as the No. 5 starter after the Yankees have dealt with injuries to Jordan Montgomery and Jonathan Loaisiga.
Granted, every other pitcher in New York's rotation has some uncertainty attached. Luis Severino's ERA has jumped nearly a full run over the past month; Sonny Gray has been inconsistent; and Masahiro Tanaka and CC Sabathia have dealt with respective injuries this season.
"As I've told you guys, I'm a big J.A. Happ guy," Boone said. "Just seeing him come in here with the intensity, with the focus, just really comfortable already, fitting in really well. You always want to see a new player to the team, in a new situation, go out there and have some success."
The Yankees, despite having the second-best record in baseball, trail the Red Sox by 5 1/2 games in the division. But they begin a four-game series at Fenway Park on Thursday, and Happ is slated to pitch on Saturday.
"You're in a pennant race," Happ said, "and that's the most exciting thing in baseball, really."