News came out today that one of MLB’s most dominant and reliable relief pitchers of the last three seasons won’t throw a pitch until Opening Day 2011.
Yep, the Rays have just lost JP Howell.
As some of you may know, JP had been on the DL for the duration of this season. He was rehabbing a shoulder that had extreme fatigue in it–not surprising considering his overuse the last three years.
Rays fans were told that he would be back possibly at the end of April.
Then it turned into a mid-May return.
Then an early-June startup.
However, after a setback during a simulated game yesterday–a game from which Howell removed himself after 12 pitches–it was decided by the Rays’ braintrust that the southpaw would undergo season-ending shoulder surgery.
Yes, pain with the surgery, for sure. But suddenly the Rays bullpen looks a little weaker.
Don’t get me wrong, I know that the Rays’ bullpen had been beyond dominant as of late. In their last 28 games they had a collective ERA of 1.29. Can you believe that!? 1.29!!!!
But there have been two things on the minds of Rays fans and, more than likely, Rays skipper Joe Maddon.
1–Randy Choate could not continue to be the lone lefty in the ‘pen.
2–Howell will have a HUGE impact when he returned because, after missing the first two months of the season, he would be fresher than anybody else when the Rays made their playoff push in late September.
It appears that #1 will continue to be the case and that #2 is irrelevent at this point.
Choate has been solid this season after a rocky start. In fact, he has given up one run in his last 16 outings (don’t let the high-5 ERA fool you). Lefties are hitting just .145 against Choate this season but righties are mashing him for a .545 batting average.
What that means is that Choate is a 1- or 2-batter pitcher at best. Howell was able to get righties out as effectively as lefties, which allowed Maddon to save some arms in his bullpen and keep that second lefty in the ‘pen for later in the game.
Make no mistake, while the Rays’ bullpen has had great success thus far this season, they were hoping to get a 100% JP Howell back soon. With that not happening, we might see a callup of a lefty or a garbage heap hire to help Choate in that pen.