Twins newcomer Happ back on mound after positive virus test

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Texas Rangers starting pitcher Kohei Arihara, of Japan, throws a pitch against the Chicago White Sox during the first inning of a spring training baseball game Tuesday, March 2, 2021, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

Eager for a fresh start with a new team, J.A. Happ needed to slow down before throwing a single pitch for the Minnesota Twins.

The left-hander tested positive for COVID-19 upon reporting to spring training, putting his practice schedule on hold.

Happ cleared virus protocols on Tuesday and took part in team workouts for the first time at camp in Fort Myers, Florida. The rest of the Twins played an exhibition game against Atlanta in North Port.

The 38-year-old Happ, who left the New York Yankees and signed in January with the Twins for $8 million this season, acknowledged feeling anxious about making up for the lost time and “pressing a little bit” in his bullpen session.

Happ said his senses of smell and taste have not yet returned, but beyond that he feels fine physically.

“It is strange. I make a protein smoothie every day, and I just remember one day waking up and I made that, and I just thought, ‘Did I make the wrong ingredients in here? It just doesn’t taste anywhere close,’” Happ said.

“And then I realized two minutes later that’s sort of a symptom that you get with this. That was over a week ago now. But I think it is coming back. I feel like I’m getting slight bits here and there, so hopefully that continues,” he said.

The two-time AL Central champion Twins are hoping Happ can give them a veteran presence at the back of their rotation. A 20-game winner with Toronto in 2016 and an All-Star in 2018 while pitching for the Blue Jays and Yankees, Happ went 2-2 with a 3.47 ERA in nine starts last year.