Toronto pitcher J.A. Happ had to deal with constant questions this spring about his role with the Blue Jays this season.
He'll head north with a position in the starting rotation and is now armed with a new two-year contract worth US$8.9 million.
"I want to be an established piece that makes a big contribution," Happ said Thursday on a conference call. "That's always been my goal and that's the plan."
Happ got the word this week that he would be rewarded with a rotation spot. On Wednesday night, the Blue Jays announced he had signed an extension that includes a $6.7-million club option for 2015.
Ricky Romero was initially pencilled in as the No. 5 man in a beefed-up rotation that includes R.A. Dickey, Josh Johnson, Mark Buehrle and Brandon Morrow. But Romero has struggled to find his form and will start the season in the minor leagues.
Happ, meanwhile, has been steady throughout the spring. He has a sparkling 1.90 earned-run average in seven appearances -- including six starts -- to rank among the Grapefruit League leaders.
The 30-year-old left-hander will receive $3.7 million this year and $5.2 million next year. The contract supersedes the one-year deal he had signed last January.
"It made sense for us," said general manager Alex Anthopoulos. "I think the dollars and the term still protects Jay's upside if he has great success. If things don't work out, it's shorter term for us.
"And obviously I don't think you ever go wrong taking guaranteed money if you're a player."
Earlier in the spring, a long relief role in the bullpen or a starter's job in triple-A Buffalo looked like possibilities for Happ. He was determined to prove he belonged in the Toronto rotation and his numbers were impressive.
"You're always trying to get good results and you're always trying to execute," Happ said. "But I certainly had the motivation."
Happ has a 35-35 career record and 4.19 ERA in 116 career major-league appearances.
He was obtained by the Blue Jays last July in a trade with Houston. Happ went 10-11 with the Astros and Blue Jays last season with a 4.79 ERA in 28 games.
The six-foot-six 195-pound southpaw has won 10 or more games twice in his career. He spent his first four seasons with the Philadelphia Phillies before joining Houston in 2011.
The Blue Jays will open the regular season Tuesday night against the Cleveland Indians at Rogers Centre. Happ is scheduled to start April 6 against the visiting Boston Red Sox.