J.P. Howell is out for the season as he recovers from shoulder surgery but he is still valuable to the Rays in 2010, at least in theory. Rays fans should recall that David Price made the 2008 post-season roster despite the fact he was called up to the big league club after September 1st. Normally, a player has to be on the 25 man roster before September 1st to be post-season eligible but there is a back-door process first made famous by the Anaheim Angels in 2002.
In 2001, Quebec native (you’re welcome, Jonah) Steve Green had one start for the Anaheim Angels in which he had a no-decision while working six innings walking six and striking out four. It was the last game Green would pitch for the Angels that season as he came down with a shoulder injury that required surgery, much like J.P. Howell’s situation. The Angels put Green on the 60-day disabled list on 4/6/02 which made him eligible for the 2002 post-season should the Angels get that far. They indeed did get to the post-season, but Green was nowhere near ready to pitch for them that September. Due to a variety of injuries, the Angels were forced to promote 20 year old Francisco Rodriguez from AAA on September 15th. The existing rules enabled the Angels to place Rodriguez on the post-season roster despite the late promotion because he was replacing Green, who was eligible for post-season play by simply being on the 25 man roster in 2002 albeit in an injured status. The rule states:
Many young players make their Major League debuts in this way, as “September call-ups”. Players must be on a team’s 25-man roster as of August 31 to be eligible for post-season play. The only exception is that a player on the 60-day disabled list may be replaced by another player from the team’s 40-man roster (as of August 31) who plays the same position.
That means the club cannot use Howell’s roster spot to add recently acquired Brad Hawpe or to add another outfielder such as Desmond Jennings, Fernando Perez, or even Rocco Baldelli. Rays fans saw this benefit the club when Price was added to the playoff roster to replace Jae-Kuk Ryu who had faced all of five batters for the Rays in 2008 before going to the 60-day disabled list with an injury.
While J.P. Howell is still not on the 60-day disabled list, I suspect he will be placed on there before this coming Wednesday allowing the Rays to recall another pitcher who can help them should they reach the post-season. Simply put, J.P. Howell can contribute to the 2010 success of the Rays by allowing the club to add either Jeremy Hellickson or Jacob McGee to the post-season roster despite the fact one of them will not be added to the club until after the September 1st deadline. This same point was made quite well by R.J. Anderson over at The Process Report back on July 31st but I felt the need to post a reminder given the piece I read in this morning’s paper from Marc Topkin about the Rays’ options for September roster expansion where Topkin made a factual error in his last paragraph regarding how Howell’s roster spot can be utilized.