Despite beating the Yankees yesterday to go 12-4 on the Grapefruit League season, not all of the news yesterday was good. It was learned yesterday that J.P. Howell is not going to be ready to start the season and could very well be out until May 1st with a weak shoulder.
“There’s no question he won’t start the season,” said manager Joe Maddon after the Rays’ 6-2 win over the Yankees on Friday night.
Depending on what is determined during Howell’s visit to team orthopedist Koco Eaton on Friday, Howell will likely undergo a two- to four-week rehab, at the end of which he could begin throwing.
“The shoulder is weak. We want to try to build up the strength in his shoulder,” Maddon said. “Preliminary indications are the two- to four-week rehab situation and then, after that, the actual throwing and then building it back up to game speed.
This likely means that either Andy Sonnanstine or Carlos Hernandez could be retained to work in the bullpen. Both pitchers were likely headed to Durham to join Jeremy Hellickson in the rotation and were likely going to be the first two called up should any starter need to be covered for one or two starts but this likely changes things. Having Hernandez replace Howell would give the club a second lefty in the pen while Sonnanstine actually has reverse splits and is better against left-handed batters. That does not address the fact that Howell’s value is a lot more than the typical lefty in the pen as, on paper, is one of the best set-up men in the American League heading into the season. This would push Grant Balfour and Dan Wheeler further back into the game than scheduled as well which was problematic at times last season.