FORT MYERS, Fla. — J.A. Happ is still waiting to kick the lingering symptoms from his COVID-19 case — an inability to taste and smell — but the Twins’ starting pitcher has officially kicked the virus, producing a negative test result and clearing MLB’s protocols, allowing him to join Twins’ camp for the first time this spring on Tuesday.

Happ is feeling healthy and some of the fatigue that he felt during his bout of COVID-19 has disappeared. Now, it’s just about getting his senses back to normal.

“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? This doesn’t taste anything close,’ and then I realized two minutes later that that’s sort of a symptom that you get with this,” Happ said. “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.”

In his senses and his left arm.

Happ, 38, worked his first bullpen session of spring training on Tuesday morning, throwing 33 pitches at Hammond Stadium. He had thrown off the mound eight to 10 times before reporting to Florida and had been stretched out to about 40 pitches, he said.

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“I felt like I was in a good spot coming in, so (I was) disappointed that I had to take the time,” Happ said.

Happ thinks he picked up COVID-19 on his flight down to Fort Myers. Upon testing positive, Happ and his family relocated to a place with more space to stay in while they quarantined.

While there and recovering, he tried to maintain movement and arm strength and do the best he could with the resources he requested from the Twins.

“They brought a nine-zone net to throw in. I got a couple dozen baseballs, some weighted balls, some kettlebells, bands and jump rope, and I just tried to continually progress, and this last week or so kind of tried to make sure I could get my heart rate up each day and see how I felt after that,” he said.

That work, plus the work he put in before arriving to camp, has the Twins hopeful that Happ isn’t too far behind schedule. Happ said the 33 pitches he threw on Tuesday is pretty similar to where he would be normally this time of year, though those pitches would likely come in the form of a spring training game or live batting practice.

Happ said he’s going to have to work hard to not overdo it to rush himself back, reminding himself that he still has plenty of time to get ready for the season. He can rest assure the Twins, who constantly preach rest and recovery, will not let that happen. Happ said pitching coach Wes Johnson had to calm him down during his bullpen session Tuesday when he got frustrated with himself.

Manager Rocco Baldelli said the team would take a week or so to assess where Happ is and see how much he’s able to do as they chart his path back. Happ said he was hopeful he can ramp up and be ready for the first week of the season, even if that didn’t necessarily mean throwing 100 pitches his first time out.

The Twins share that hope.

“I’m still optimistic that he can get out there and make his first start of the season,” Baldelli said. “And to be honest, if we deem that’s not going to be the case, he’s not going to be very far behind regardless.”


The Twins suffered their first loss of the spring, bowing 6-0 to the Atlanta Braves in North Port, Fla., on Tuesday afternoon.

The Twins hope to have shortstop Andrelton Simmons in camp and available by the end of the week, Baldelli said. Simmons has been held up Curacao, dealing with visa issues.

President of baseball operations Derek Falvey said reliever Caleb Thielbar has been dealing with “just a little bit of low-back tightness” that flared up near the beginning of camp. Falvey said Thielbar has returned to light throwing.